A tractor-trailer crashed through a concrete barrier on Interstate 5 in Tacoma early Wednesday, shutting down both directions of the freeway for several hours.
The wreck occurred about 3:30 a.m. in the southbound lanes near state Route 16, the same area where five other semi trucks have crashed in the last four months.
About 120 gallons of fuel spilled onto the roadway, according to the Washington State Patrol.
Crews cleaned up the fuel and replaced the concrete median, reopening the freeway by 7:40 a.m.
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The truck driver received minor injuries in the crash.
A northbound vehicle was struck by pieces of concrete and another northbound car hit the damaged barrier, which had been pushed into the fast lane. Troopers said a third driver struck the second car after it hit the barrier.
Minor injuries were also reported in that collision.
The truck driver was cited for negligent driving and troopers said the 60-year-old was driving too fast for conditions.
Officials said semis keep crashing in this spot, which has been under construction since May, because the lanes are narrower through the work zone.
“There’s very little room for error,” Trooper Johnna Batiste said. “In every single collision we’ve investigated, we’ve been able to determine some form of operator error.”
Lanes are usually 12-feet wide. They are 11-feet wide in the construction zone, with 2-foot wide shoulders.
“Safety is of paramount importance, and when we started seeing these collisions, we were out there right away,” said Claudia Bingham Baker, a spokeswoman for the state Department of Transportation.
Since November, WSDOT has done two field reviews to ensure all safety signs, striping and lane reflectors are in place; put up safety message boards advising drivers to pay close attention; and implemented a 50 mph advisory speed limit.
“The only difference in this most-recent rash of semi collisions is the fact that it’s been winter, with long dark nights and wet roadways,” Bingham Baker said.
Indeed, all the wrecks took place when I-5 was rain-slicked.