Highway 280 lane closures snarl southbound traffic

Southbound commuters were ensnared in hours of trafficThursday morning after a section of Interstate Highway 280 became unstable and three lanes were closed right in the middle of rush hour.

A portion of southbound I-280 north of Trousdale Drive became unstable during overnight pavement-rehabilitation work, said Lauren Wonder, spokeswoman for the California Department of Transportation.

As crews cut into the No. 2 lane, a void opened beneath the pavement slab, and the slab began to rock back and forth, Wonder said.

The California Highway Patrol issued a traffic alert at 6:21 a.m., after which vehicles in the three outer lanes were routed into the fast lane so crews could fix the roadway. The lanes were not reopened until 8:49 a.m., causing gridlock on I-280 that backed up for seven miles, CHP Officer A. Paulson said.

“All four lanes had to get into one lane at once. It was pretty dramatic,” said John Quinlan, who commutes south on I-280 daily from his home in San Bruno to his job at the San Mateo County Office of Emergency Services in Redwood City.

Quinlan’s typical commute takes 25 minutes, but on Thursday, it was nearly an hour. It took more than half an hour just to get beyond the roadwork site, he said.

CHP officials urged drivers to seek alternate southbound routes during the closure. Many took U.S. Highway 101 instead, causing additional slowdowns. Traffic remained heavy on both freeways through 10 a.m.

“This is a perfect example of why we do things overnight,” Wonder said, adding that if crews had not been there and the roadway had collapsed, it would have taken longer to repair. “It was very fortunate that we were there.”

Caltrans expected to return Thursday night to reinforce the collapsed section with rebar and concrete, according to Wonder.

bwinegarner@examiner.com

Staff Writer David Smith contributed to this report.

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