ASHLAND, Ore. — The wintry Wednesday weather caused significant delays on I-5, after it was shut down for over 20 hours overnight. Although traffic is flowing now, ODOT said the Siskiyou Overpass will see the effects of this closure for days.
Semi after semi, at least two miles of traffic backed up at Ashland’s exit 19 around noon. “Anytime that you have a closure or a stoppage, a truck that sideways vehicles, they can’t go anymore. Traffic quickly backs up behind it,” said Gary Leaming with ODOT. But there can be consequences when miles of traffic pile up.
“When that occurs, the plows can’t work. If it’s snowing hard, the snow continues to build and it just compounds the problem,” said Leaming. While snow was a problem on Wednesday, drivers ignoring chain advisories ultimately led to the closure. “Unfortunately, it was due to big rigs and other vehicles that chose not to use chains when instructed to. And they became disabled on southbound I-5,” said Haleigh Pike with Caltrans.
Gary Leaming with ODOT says most truck drivers will chain up to continue traveling but there are always exceptions. “They’ll try to get by and we struggled with that last night according to our managers, in the sense of some of the truck drivers didn’t have the correct chains put on the correct tire. They were sent back into Ashland and they came back through again,” said Leaming.
After I-5 closed Wednesday night, some worried truck drivers and other travelers might get stranded, but Caltrans and ODOT say that is not the case. “We have crews out there 24/7 working to assist these drivers. We were letting people know who were contacting us overnight that if they felt as if they were stranded or their life was in any kind of danger that they should contact 911,” said Pike.