California Highway Patrol investigators believe speed was a factor in the crash of a gas tanker that exploded and caused a portion of Oakland’s MacArthur Maze to collapse early this morning, but do not believe the driver was intoxicated, CHP Officer Trenton Cross said.
According to Cross, the driver, James Mosqueda, 51, of Woodland, had just filled his tanker with about 8,600 gallons of gasoline at a local refinery before the crash, reported at 3:42 a.m., on the connector ramp from westbound Interstate Highway 80 to southbound Interstate Highway 880.
According to Cross, Mosqueda had been driving for his trucking company for only 10 months.
The tanker was apparently traveling too fast on the connector ramp from westbound Interstate Highway 80 to southbound Interstate Highway 880 when it lost control, struck a guardrail and overturned, Cross said.
Heat from the explosion, which reached temperatures up to 2,000 degrees Fahrenheit, rose and caused 250 yards of the connector ramp from eastbound Interstate Highway 80 to eastbound Interstate Highway 580 to collapse, according to Cross.
Both ramps are closed indefinitely, according to Caltrans spokeswoman Lauren Wonder.
Roughly 280,000 commuters feed through Oakland’s MacArthur Maze to the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge every day, where a portion of the freeway collapsed this morning, according to Wonder.
“The structure is heavily damaged,” Wonder said. The Monday morning commute is going to “a nightmare,” she added.
The speed limit on the ramp is 50 mph, and evidence from skid marks and damage to the guard rail indicates Mosqueda was speeding, Cross said. Investigators have ruled out any kind of drug or alcohol intoxication, he said.
Mosqueda walked away from the crash and took a taxi from a nearby gas station to Kaiser hospital in Oakland, where he is being treated for second-degree burns to his hands, arms and face, according to Cross.
“He’s lucky,” Cross said. “He got out pretty quick. Then there was an explosion.” If the crash had happened 10 or 15 feet further along the roadway, the ramp might not have collapsed, Cross added.
Assessment crews are on scene now and will be evaluating the damage as soon as fire and CHP officials confirm that it is safe, Wonder said.
It was not known how far along the roadway before and after the collapse the damage extends, according to Wonder.
Caltrans highway engineers are headed to Oakland from Sacramento to further assess the damage, Wonder said.
The collapsed ramp from eastbound Interstate Highway 80 to eastbound Interstate Highway 580 will have to be demolished and then rebuilt, Wonder said.
“Unofficially, it’s going to take months,” Wonder said. “This is major damage.”
The connector from westbound Interstate Highway 80 to eastbound Interstate Highway 580 is now open, but eastbound Interstate Highway 80 to eastbound Interstate Highway 580 remains closed, according to the CHP.
Traffic continues to flow onto the bridge.
Travelers wishing to enter San Francisco from the East Bay may take Interstate Highway 80, which remains open.
Travelers coming from San Francisco to Oakland or Hayward, as well as those traveling from Berkeley to Oakland, on Monday, will likely experience problems and should seek alternative routes or public transportation, Cross said.
Bay City News and KCBS