The Star Beacon; Ashtabula, Ohio

February 8, 2013

Nightmare on 90

3 rig crashes cause tie-ups from Pa. to Kingsville

Star Beacon

CONNEAUT — A perfect storm of traffic crashes Thursday night injured two people created a driving nightmare for westbound traffic on Interstate 90.

Two truck rollover crashes in Conneaut, about a mile apart, rendered westbound I-90 off-limits to traffic between the Pennsylvania line and Route 193 in Kingsville Township. Meanwhile, a third truck crash in the vicinity of routes 193 and 84 snarled traffic at that entrance way to the freeway in Kingsville.

Police and firefighters were still at the scene late Thursday night and details were not immediately available. However, it appears the incident began shortly after 6 p.m. when a westbound truck left the north side of the highway less than one mile west of Route 7, near the end of that highway's westbound freeway entrance ramp.

Two occupants of the truck, a man and a woman, were injured, according to reports.

An Ohio Department of Transportation official said the rig was hauling aluminum.

A short time later, a second rollover was reported westbound between Route 7 and the rest area/weigh scales facility, spilling milk, an ODOT official said.

Diesel fuel was reportedly spilled at one of the Conneaut crash scenes, and crews were waiting for clean-up crews to arrive, rescue personnel said.

Traffic was rerouted off I-90 at Route 6N in West Springfield, Pa., and funneled onto Route 20. Traditionally, those vehicles take Route 20 into Conneaut, using Route 7 to reconnect with I-90's westbound lanes. However, the Route 7 entrance ramp was shut down because of the first crash.

As a result, the bulk of I-90 westbound traffic shuffled onto Route 20 had to take the federal highway to Route 193 to return to the freeway.

A few truck drivers who tried to use Route 7 to reach I-90 were told to keep driving south to Route 84, then go west to Route 193 in Kingsville. One trucker who took that alternate detour apparently ran into trouble at routes 84 and 193 and became hung up on a guardrail.

Traffic was slowed — but not stopped —- at that location, according to reports from the scene.

An ODOT worker was asked why so many mishaps when the road was relatively dry. He smiled and said, “It just happens.”

Thursday night's traffic nightmare was the latest in a series of I-90 mishaps that have bedeviled drivers the past few days.

Around 8 p.m. Wednesday, a truck traveling west on the freeway left the roadway west of Route 7 and became mired in mud on the soft shoulder, police said. The rig did not crash and the driver was not hurt, officers said. Due to the size of the truck, the westbound lanes were closed to traffic between routes 7 and 193 for about 30 minutes, police said.

Due to road construction under way in the area, the shoulders are extremely soft and can quickly trap vehicles that stray from the pavement, police said.

The more serious incident occurred around 1 p.m. Wednesday in the eastbound lanes, about one mile west of Route 7, firefighters said. A truck left the road and eventually struck a culvert, said Assistant Fire Chief Steve Sanford. The driver was unhurt but a passenger required treatment at UH Conneaut Medical Center for an apparently shoulder injury, Sanford said.

A saddle tank on the truck ruptured and an estimated 200 gallons of diesel fuel escaped, Sanford said. Firefighters helped contain the spill for hazardous material crews and the Ohio Environmental Protection Agency, which arrived at the scene.

Three wreckers were needed to remove the tractor and its 53-foot trailer from the scene, Sanford said. Traffic was reduced to one lane eastbound, he said.

The incidents were the latest that have occurred on both sets of I-90 lanes this week, safety departments have said. Some were weather related, but all constricted traffic, according to reports.  

Staff editor Robert Lebzelter contributed to this story.