Wrong-Way Bus Has Close Call -- Metro, DOT Mixup Sends Rig Up Wrong Ramp
The glitter on Metro's new bus tunnel was dulled a bit over the weekend when a bus emerged from the Convention Center Station tunnel and went the wrong way on a busy Interstate 5 ramp.
The result of the snafu, according to one passenger, was a narrowly avoided head-on collision and a time-consuming effort to back the bus down the ramp.
None of the bus passengers or anyone else was injured.
Passenger Lorraine Clark, said however, that the front of the bus went several feet into one of the express lanes before the driver was able to stop it.
``His nose was out there, six or eight feet into it. The cars were swerving to go around. They were giving us the horn, like, `Why don't you back up?' . . . There could have
been a horrible crash.''
Metro officials contended today that the bus never was in danger because it never entered the express lanes, said spokeswoman Alice Collingwood.
``The driver was able to stop before he got into any actual traffic,'' added Charlie Weeks, of Metro's communications division.
After realizing the express-lane traffic was southbound, the bus driver radioed for assistance.
Two other Metro employees arrived to help him back the bus down the ramp to the Convention Center station, where it took another route to its destination in the University District.
The incident occurred around 5 p.m. Saturday during the University of Washington-University of Southern California football game.
Normally on Saturday, the I-5 express lanes are opened for northbound traffic. In recent years, DOT has reversed the traffic from northbound to southbound to accommodate fans leaving the game.
Shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday, a DOT dispatcher radioed Metro that the lanes had been reversed. Shortly after that, a bus left the Metro station near the Convention Center.
When a bus leaves the station at Pine Street and 9th Avenue in downtown Seattle, the driver has two options: go east onto a ramp that takes the bus onto the express lanes heading north or, angle left onto another ramp to get on Olive Way on its way to Eastlake Avenue, according to Weeks.
When the express lanes are reversed to carry southbound traffic, Metro officials are to notify supervisors at the International District Station and at the Convention Center Station of the change.
The supervisors then are supposed to alert bus drivers of the switch. The supervisors also are supposed to make sure orange highway cones are placed at the entrance to the express lanes ramp to keep buses from entering.
According to Weeks, DOT called the wrong office to notify Metro of the reversal. Instead of calling the Metro Tunnel Controller's Office, DOT called the Metro Radio Communication Center.
It's the Tunnel Controller's Office that notifies the tunnel supervisors of the express-lanes change.
He acknowledged, however, that Metro's communication center and the controller's office are in the same building at Second Avenue and Marion Street and adjacent to each other, separated only by a wall with a window.
Metro acknowledged that Metro employees failed to put out the orange cones to alert the bus driver that he was headed into southbound traffic.
Copyright (c) 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.