Smashed windshield a sign of Washington’s troubled roadways

The piece of roadway that smashed through this windshield – shown in a screen grab from a video – is bringing to light many of the state’s infrastructure woes.

When a chunk of I-5 flew up and smashed through the windshield of a car carrying a family of four, the dangers of Washington’s crumbling roadways became all too real.

“The rock hit me so hard in the chest, it literally took my breath away,” Henry Jessop, who was in the passenger seat, told KOMO. His son Ian and his daughter were in the back seat, and his wife was behind the wheel.

Jessop had to have stitches on his chin and inside his mouth. His chin and chest were also severely bruised by the piece of pavement.

And it was a freak incident, said Chris Johnson of the Washington Department of Transportation, since he couldn’t remember another time when a chunk of pavement flew up into a windshield in his 35 years with the state.

However, it could become more common as the list of repairs needed on the state’s highways and interstates is far outstripping the state’s ability to fix the problems.

“As our transportation system has more wear and tear on it, and as we go longer without revenue dollars to just take care of the system that we have, we’re unfortunately going to see more of this kind of thing,” Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond told KOMO.

“Anybody who has lived here long enough knows I-5 is now over 60 years old and the concrete is aging,” said Bill Vlcek, Deputy Regional Administrator with Wash DOT. “I-5 has a lifespan and we are reaching the end of it.”

Our hazardous roads 

Initially there was some confusion about where the piece of debris came from. The initial report to the Washington State Patrol was that someone had thrown a rock from an overpass, said Trooper Julie Judson, a spokesperson with WSP.

But when troopers got to the scene, located the rock and performed an investigation, they determined that the piece of rock was part of the roadway that had been kicked up by the wheels of another vehicle and launched into the air to punch through the windshield.

Pieces of the roadway and parts that fall off of vehicles are a constant problem, she said.

“Many times, we’ve received calls that people believe that their car had been shot at, for instance,” Judson said. “Road debris is a huge problem, (including) things falling off of vehicles.”

Put a motorcycle in that situation and the dangers are even more pronounced, of course.

“Unfortunately, motorcyclists have a lot of hazards to deal with. Something that can be just a simple bump in the road for us is something that can take them off their vehicles if it’s substantial enough. So any kind of flying debris is a huge concern,” she added.

The state does plan to spend $170 million to repair I-5 between now and 2024, state officials said. However, Wash DOT won’t receive the bulk of money until 2016.

Originally posted to KPLU News 1:29 PM Tue July 24, 2012

BY: JAKE ELLISON, LINDSAY LOWE AND EVAN HOOVER

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One comment

  1. Wow! I’ve lived in Tacoma my entire life and in the past few years the road situation has gotten pretty bad. Some roads have been eroded to the point that the lines on the street no longer matter. It’s become a game of “dodge the pothole”, and if that means your car ends up in two lanes, oh well. People have really got to start getting to the city counsel meetings and talk about how we’re going to fix this issue, before this gets any worse.

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