SEATTLE — The Washington Department of Transportation said Tuesday it has no immediate plans to switch from cable to concrete median barriers along a stretch of Interstate 5, where a dump truck carrying gravel plowed into oncoming traffic over the weekend.
“This was a fully loaded dump truck full of rock and gravel, also pulling a trailer — an extraordinary crash,” DOT spokesman Travis Phelps said. “There are no barriers we have that are designed to handle a crash of that magnitude.”
Some 27 vehicles were involved in the accident Saturday in Mount Vernon where the truck crashed through the median and hit traffic that had backed up while police investigated a fatal double-shooting.
Seven people were injured, at least one critically.
Investigators believe the truck driver may have had a medical condition that caused the crash.
The state previously added concrete barriers to cables on a stretch of I-5 in Marysville, where the cable barriers had failed to prevent crossover collisions, resulting in eight deaths between 2000 and 2007.
Phelps said that in many areas, cable barriers are actually safer than concrete because cables are designed to slow down errant vehicles and absorb the force of the crash. By contrast, concrete barriers don’t have much give, resulting in more damage to a vehicle and greater risk of injury to the passengers or driver.
Concrete barriers can also deflect vehicles back into traffic, imposing risks on other drivers, he noted.
“We’re taking this seriously and we’re going to definitely be talking to the State Patrol about what caused the crash,” Phelps said. “But we remain confident our cable barriers are an effective way to keep highways safer.”
Before the crash, authorities had closed the northbound lanes while they investigated a case in which two men were found shot to death in their car on the College Way off-ramp. The victims were identified as Miguel A. Lopez, 21, and Leonardo Salinas-Lopez, 20.
A 19-year-old man who was also in their car managed to escape and told authorities a dark, four-door pickup truck had pulled alongside and opened fire. The man said he grabbed the wheel to pull the car over.
The Washington State Patrol continued to investigate the shooting as well as the crash involving the dump truck.
Investigators asked any witnesses to come forward, including people who might have seen the dump truck veer from the southbound lanes.