OLYMPIA, Wash. -- A busted expansion joint that damaged 15 cars along Highway 101 South near I-5 North in Olympia may not have a permanent fix for months.
Debra Chamberlain was on her way to work in Olympia early Thursday morning when she saw a piece of concrete fly up into the air.
“I hit and it exploded my tire and all I could think about then was to get off to the side of the road,” said Chamberlain.
Chamberlain’s car was towed to her auto dealership where technicians estimated up to $800 in damage to the left front and back tires to her 2008 Hyundai.
“Rims for my car, then I have to get my tires replaced, the alignment,” she said.
Chamberlain and the 14 other cars involved managed to swerve off the road without any injuries. Dennis Tody, who saw the accidents happen but escaped damage to his car, fears it could have ended a lot worse.
“It could have been bowling pins at the end of a bowling alley with a good strike, let’s put it that way,” said Tody.
According to Chris Keegan, WSDOT Regional Operations Engineer, nearly 200,000 drivers pass through the area each day. The damaged expansion joint, which was built in 1986, goes through maintenance every three years.
“With time and traffic and everything else on the joints they take a beating,” said Keegan.
While crews poured asphalt to temporarily fix the hole caused by the joint break, it only lasted a few hours Thursday.
“With the rain and everything, it just didn’t stay in the hole,” said Keegan.
According to Keegan, a permanent solution involves digging up the roadway, closing down lanes to traffic and pouring in new concrete.
“What’s underneath is broken up, so unless you can repair what’s underneath it, just throwing something on top isn’t going to stay,” said Keegan.
Work this extensive will require WSDOT to take money from other projects. Once funding is secured, it could take months to complete.
“I didn’t know a freeway could do that, I guess I do now,” said Chamberlain.
A WSDOT spokesperson says drivers who experienced damage from the expansion joint break are eligible for reimbursement, but must file a claim first.