Driver who broke power pole along I-5 faces huge repair bill

By: Gary Horcher

Updated:
SEATTLE - The North Seattle driver who caused a massive chain-reaction of damage and hours of I-5 delays when he ran his car into a power-pole support line will be billed for at least six-figures worth of repair costs, according to Seattle City Light.
 
The driver, who was cited by Seattle police for negligent driving, totaled his car when he lost control while taking a wide right turn at 5th Avenue Northeast and Northeast 125th Street at 8:17 a.m. Saturday, according to police.
 
The crash, which severed a guy line supporting a large power pole, also snapped one of Seattle City Light's major transmission poles in half. That line had been carrying 115 kilovolts, which is as large as power lines get, according to the utility.
 
The force of the pole crashing down led to a domino effect where live power lines fell onto I-5 and led to gridlock for two and a half hours. The power lines -- which also carried a fiber optic line used by Seattle Public Schools -- had to be sawed into pieces after the live wires caused two crashes and forced people to stay inside their cars during the entire delay.
 
Seattle City Light will now charge the driver's insurance company for all the damage labor and repair work. Several homeowners told KIRO 7 they also have damage claims after their electric meters were ripped from their homes. The State Patrol can even file a claim against the driver for their overtime and the closure of I-5.
 
"What complicates this fix is its location," said Scott Thomsen of Seattle City Light. "This wire goes directly over I-5 which is the busiest road in the state of Washington and the West Coast. We will have to re-string that line over the roadway again, which requires a rolling slowdown," Thomsen said.
 
City Light told KIRO 7 they don't know how much they'll recover from the driver's insurance policy, but they say utility ratepayers and taxpayers should not have to pay for the damage.
 
"Just as if you had run into another car or someone's home, the damage you caused while you're out driving is something that you're responsible for, and that's why we have insurance," Thomsen said.

Next Up: