Buckled expansion joint snarls traffic for hours

by: KIRO 7 STAFF Updated:

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SEATTLE - An expansion joint that buckled on southbound Interstate 5  just south of Interstate 90 caused major backups for hours Thursday morning.

Emergency repairs disrupted the morning commute and blocked three left lanes at Holgate Street.  The incident was reported shortly before 6 a.m. At one point, the backup was 12 miles.  

The Washington State Patrol said at least three tow trucks were called for damaged vehicles, but several others had flat tires.

A crew first used a truck to try to force the joint back into place.  When that didn't work, they determined they would have to cut out the buckled part of the joint.  The crew was seen using a blowtorch on the metal.

The State Department of Transportation said it appeared the expansion joint didn't fail, but the metal plate that covers it broke.

The DOT is in the process of replacing the expansion joints in this area of I-5. KIRO 7 was told this is one of the 50-year-old joints that still need to be replaced.

The DOT first said they hoped to have the joint back in place by 7:30 a.m., but when the initial fixes did not work, they estimated the lanes would remain closed until 8:30 a.m.  Shortly after 8:30 a.m., they said the lanes would remain closed another hour until 9:30 a.m., but three lanes remained closed.  Finally all lanes reopened by 11 a.m.

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