If a traffic collision on Interstate 5 caused extensive damage and shut down both directions of the freeway for days, how would the Puget Sound region keep people moving?
On Tuesday, May 16, at King County International Airport/Boeing Field, representatives from local, state and federal stakeholder agencies participated in an exercise intended to address that very question.
The scenario for the “tabletop” exercise – dubbed Critical Juncture 2017 – centered on a theoretical scenario where a massive vehicle accident damaged an I-5 overpass near the Ship Canal Bridge, effectively shutting down both directions of this portion of the freeway for at least a week.
In a truncated amount of time, those involved with the exercise had to identify issues and challenges that might arise during such an incident, utilize plans developed for this type of emergency and propose possible strategies and tactics to get people moving again.
Basically, the group was tasked with figuring out how to move millions of people to, from and within a major urban area without its main thoroughfare. Pretty daunting, right?
Luckily, those who attended Critical Juncture 2017 were up to the task. They prioritized commuter and light rail, coordinated with local transit and ferry systems and encouraged telecommuting – all of which could help reduce the number of cars in the city.
They represented agencies that would coordinate if the region ever did experience such an emergency, including:
- King County DOT/Metro
- Seattle DOT
- Washington State DOT
- U.S. Department of Transportation
- Sound Transit
- City of Seattle
- City of Bellevue
- King County Offices of Emergency Management
- Seattle Fire Department
- Seattle Police Department
- Seattle Parks and Recreation
- Washington State Patrol
- Washington National Guard
- University of Washington
Critical Juncture 2017 is part of an ongoing series of exercises intended to improve operational response and coordination capabilities during a significant transportation-related incident. Although many of these agencies manage similar trainings on a smaller scale, and real incidents every day, this type of exercise is essential to enhancing operational relationships and inter-agency coordination – something that is crucial during an emergency of this magnitude.
King County DOT is proud to support the sponsor of Critical Junction 2017, Seattle DOT. We not only actively participated but also designed the scenario, developed the exercise plan and served as the exercise facilitator.
Jeff Wamsley, King County Metro’s Superintendent for its Transit Control Center, said the exercise presented a challenging scenario that required participants to think strategically across agency and jurisdictional lines. It’s also timely, given the propane tanker truck accident in February on I-5 in Seattle – the same day as snowfall – that forced many of the region’s transportation systems to a standstill.
“It is precisely this type of exercise that will help us be better prepared when an actual major incident occurs,” he said.