Caltrans questioned over zipper response time

$1.25 million machine used for first this year

SAN DIEGO - Team 10 is investigating why it took Caltrans more than two hours to expand the carpool lane from two to three lanes after a tractor trailer jack-knifed on I-15 Monday morning, causing a traffic back up for hours.

Early Monday, a semi-truck carrying cookie dough jackknifed on the 15 causing a chain reaction with two other cars.

Brent Black spent his Monday morning commute in this gridlock traffic.

"I called my business partner and told him I was going to be late,” Black said. “Now I'm getting a second cup of coffee because I finished mine on the freeway."
It added more than an hour and a half to driver Van Nguyen's commute.

"It's crazy! People flipping me off, cutting you off. It's crazy on that 15."

Caltrans called in the Mobile Barrier Mover – known as the Zipper -- to expand the carpool lane to ease up traffic. The equipment is used to move eight concrete barriers at a time. The barriers weigh one ton each. The Zipper moves 5 to 8 miles per hour pushing the barriers 12 feet over.

"I wish they would have done that early, then traffic would have been a little less," Black said.

Caltrans spokesman Edward Cartagena, said the accident happened at 5 a.m. and crews were called in at 5:20 a.m. The first barrier was moved at 6:30 a.m.

"So you are talking just about an hour of response time to get crews and a machine that is 96 tons out there and ready to move the barriers," Cartagena said.

Cartagena said that, in hindsight, Caltrans would not have done anything differently with the crash response.

"There is not a one size fits all when it comes to accidents," Cartagena said.

The equipment is touted by officials as a way to alleviate congestion. Caltrans has three movable barrier machines along I-15 that cost $1.25 million each.

Monday's accident was the first time the I-15 machines were used in 2014. It was used four times in 2013.

Caltrans said the Zipper is there just in case of a major crash, and so far this year, there had not been  need to use it before Monday.

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