I-5 Reopens After Tunnel Crash

Caltrans reopened both sides of Interstate 5 in the Newhall Pass early Monday morning. The freeway was closed Friday night after 30 commercial vehicles and a passenger car collided in a truck bypass tunnel under the I-5. Two adults and a child were killed. The southbound truck bypass lanes could be closed for several months. Patricia Nazario has more on how commuters coped with the freeway closure over the weekend. Fire fighters used heavy equipment to remove seared remains, including this big rig truck from the tunnel.

Patricia Nazario: The writing was on the wall on Sunday afternoon.

Driver: We need to go 5 South. Where's the nearest onramp where we can get on?

Nazario: Thousands of drivers unfamiliar with the Santa Clarita Valley were led TO the southbound 5 and onto a detour that wound along surface streets and through the hills. Kenny Quinn and his buddy Michael were trying to get home to Corona.

Kenny Quinn: We're coming from Reno, so I'm kinda irritated. But what are you gonna do? It was an accident, y'know?

Nazario: What would have otherwise been an easy Sunday drive became an all-day adventure in gridlock. It took southbound drivers at least two hours to clear a three-mile stretch along "The Old Road." That's the winding street that runs parallel to the 5. Dozens of law enforcement officers like Eddie Ortiz were stationed at key points around the freeway's closures. They also spent most of their time giving motorists directions.

CHP Officer Eddie Ortiz: Pretty much every other car.

Nazario: Two men and an infant died in Friday night's disastrous pile up in the 5's southbound bypass tunnel. The crash set off an intense fire inside the tunnel that burned at about 1400 degrees. The tunnel is in no danger of collapsing, but the extreme heat badly damaged its walls. Caltrans workers shored up the tunnel temporarily with wood and steel beams. Caltrans district director Doug Failing says he'll know more about the tunnel's structural integrity after engineers closely examine concrete samples taken from inside.

Doug Failing: If it goes well, we can reopen in a couple of weeks. If it doesn't go well, then it's gonna be weeks to months.

Nazario: For now, some Santa Clarita residents are getting creative with their commute. Gabriel Rodriguez lives in Newhall and works in Pacoima. He rode his bike instead of driving the 15 miles because he figured it'd be faster.

Gabriel Rodriguez: Catching my breath. Coming up this hill. It was a couple of miles up. It's OK. I don't mind. I like it.

Nazario: Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared the scene a disaster. That allows L.A. County officials to tap into extra state money. So far, cleanup costs after the crash total more than $2 million, but they'll go higher than that.

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