Rolled semi-trailer spills tar-like substance, SR-14 closed east of Washougal

Overturned semi trailer spills tar on SR-14.jpg
KATU image

A tanker trailer filled with paving material overturned on SR-14 on Tuesday morning, closing the highway about eight miles east of Washougal.

No one was hurt in the crash, but about 3,000 gallons of hot oil spilled onto the road, causing a big mess for cleanup crews. Hot oil is used to make asphalt. It is transported hot, but hardens and becomes sticky when it cools.

The spill caused at least one other crash Tuesday morning.

"We slammed into the guardrail, bounced down about 20 to 30 more feet and hit the guardrail again where we came to a stop," said Matt Spivey, who was headed to work.

Spivey's shoes got stuck in the goo when he stepped out of the car.

"I had my slippers on this morning, and they are still sitting in the road," said Spivey.

SR-14 was closed nearly all of Tuesday because of the spill. Passenger traffic was being detoured between Belle Center Road and Salmon Falls Road. Commercial traffic was not allowed between milepost 19 and Bridge of the Gods.

Washington State Department of Transportation maintenance crews spent hours cleaning the spill. They spread sand on the top to make it easier to pick up. Front loaders scraped the road, picking up as much hot oil as possible. In the end, WSDOT chose to repave about 750 feet of the eastbound lane, and about 150 feet westbound.

"To really fix this problem and get the highway open again, we're going to have to grind off that top layer of the pavement and repave before we can get this reopened," said Tamara Greenwell, a spokesperson for WSDOT.

They will also replace sections of guardrail that were damaged in the spill.

WSDOT expects the road to be back open by Wednesday morning. Additional work is planned and both directions will likely alternate through a single lane for several days.

The state ecology department says the environmental impact of the spill is expected to be small because the hot oil did not make it into nearby waterways.

The truck's driver was cited with negligent driving, and the Washington State Patrol found that the truck's breaks were not working properly. The trucking company, Hot Oil Transport LLC, did not want to comment on the spill.