Sunday, April 29, 2007

Traffic Jam

Most of the country must know by now that we've had a - well, an incident - here in the S.F. Bay Area. Here's the short account (excerpted from today's

At around 3:40 AM, a gasoline tanker truck, loaded with 8,600 gallons of unleaded gasoline, was passing through the MacArthur Maze, on its way from a refinery in Benicia to a gas station on Hegenberger Road in Oakland. The driver was a 51 year old man from Yolo County; the current police account is that he was going too fast in a 50 MPH zone and rolled his truck. He was also, I'll add, negotiating one of the worst-designed freeway interchanges in the country. It was never good; and when they rebuilt the interchange after the Loma Prieta earthquake, they made it much worse. It's so bad that I refuse to drive it: I get off the freeway and take other routes.

The overturned truck burst into flames, estimated 200 feet high; the temperature reached 2,000 degrees; the freeway supports
melted; and something in excess of 250 yards of the freeway (I've seen it called 275) slumped down onto the freeway connector underneath. You can see photos and video at the linked site; it's really impressive to see a huge section of freeway, draped like a Dali watch.

There isn't much to do about this but boggle. The first boggle: nobody died. The only injury was the driver, currently hospitalized with second degree burns; but he got himself out of the truck on his own and took a taxi to the hospital on his own. They say he'll be out in a few more days. A cat that did this would have blown about 4 of his 9 lives.

The second boggle: oh, what this will do to the commute traffic. You can get to San Francisco just fine; but you can't get back if your destination is on highways 580 or 24.
Well, you can, but you'll have to take the West Grand exit and travel for better than a mile on city streets. With stop lights. And you can't get directly from Berkeley to the Coliseum (and points south) any more. You have to loop through a series of freeway connectors; at least it's all freeway.

I can't draw any brilliant conclusions from this, except that all the world loves to gawk at a disaster, and this is an eminently gawkable disaster. Don't speed with a truck full of gasoline? Don't assume you can make that curve?

And thank God my personal commute doesn't go this way.

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