WSDOT fixing "slick spots" on newly repaved road after string of crashes on I-90

CLE ELUM, Wash. — Washington’s Department of Transportation is fixing a slippery stretch of I-90 after a string of serious, multiple-vehicle crashes near Cle Elum.

The work to add more traction to the road is happening just one year after the freeway was repaved.

Now, drivers are wondering if something could’ve been done to prevent the crashes

The crashes that led WSDOT to test the road:

  • 10/01/2018 Eight vehicles, including five semitrailers, crashed on I-90 near Cle Elum (LINK TO CRASH COVERAGE)
  • 10/02/2018 A day later, there's a semitrailer crash in the same spot.
  • 09/22/2018 Less two weeks before, there was a three car crash again in the same area.

“In this area there's always accidents. It seems like every time you turn around,” said DeeDee Johnson, who lives in Cle Elum.

WSDOT crews looked into the issue and did a skid test, by measuring how much pressure it takes to stop a wheel mounted to a truck.

“We determined there were sections here that have lower friction than we'd like to see,” said Clint Bucknell, a WSDOT  transportation engineer.

He said crews found “slick spots.”

“There are about four or five of them – not directly at the crash site but were around it,” Bucknell said.

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The work being done now is adding traction to about 1.5 miles of the new road, over an approximately three-mile area around Cle Elum.

“The machine grinds grooves into the roadway, which creates additional traction for the vehicles,” Bucknell said.

With the road so new, some  drivers in the area say WSDOT should've had the foresight when paving last year to prevent this problem.

“I feel like it's a waste of money. I feel like they should've done it in the first place,” said Chris Solum, who regularly drives on I-90.

“They should've done it right the first time. Especially being on hills and curves and things like that, you need that traction,” Johnson said.

KIRO7’s Deedee Sun asked WSDOT about those concerns. Bucknell said the road was built according to specifications.

“I don't know if it necessary could've been prevented,” he said.

WSDOT said needing to do this work on such a new road is rare, but said one possible cause of those slick spots is from extra winter-weather treatment, because of a hill and curve in the road near where the crashes happened.

“They get a lot of wear and tear up here on the road between the plow trucks, and a lot of de-icer on the road too,” Bucknell said.

Plus, Washington State Patrol said those slippery areas in the road were not the only factor in the crashes.

Troopers say speed, too fast for the wet conditions, played a role in all three accidents.

The work is reducing I-90 Westbound near Cle Elum to a single lane through the morning of Friday and again from Oct 16 through Oct 19.