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'ACCIDENT ON COLDWATER: TRAFFIC JAMMED' CRASH SNARLS COMMUTE ON 4 FREEWAYS.

Byline: DANA BARTHOLOMEW

Staff Writer

STUDIO CITY -- Janice Adams had almost begun her commute across the San Fernando Valley when she saw news reports Tuesday of a semitrailer sprawled across the 101 Freeway.

But unlike thousands of drivers trapped for hours by the crash, she managed to skirt the logjam.

"Oh, my goodness, it was backed up ... thank God, I had another route," said Adams, 48, of Los Angeles, who works in Woodland Hills.

"I dodged a bullet."

Many didn't. Rush-hour commuters were tied up by two early morning crashes on U.S. 101 near Coldwater Canyon Avenue, caused by a drunk driver, CHP officers said.

The result was a big rig sprawled across the median, blocking six lanes on both sides of the freeway, snarling traffic into Ventura County from about 4:30 a.m.

"It was like a shotgun effect," Officer B. Denike of the California Highway Patrol said of the congestion that clogged the 101, 134, 170 and 405 freeways.

"At one point, the (101) freeway was completely stopped."

Nine freeway signs as far away as the Foothill Freeway flashed "Accident on Coldwater: Traffic Jammed," as thousands of drivers scrambled to take alternate freeways and cross-town streets.

It took until just past noon for transportation officials to completely clear all lanes, according to the California Department of Transportation.

Each workday, some 293,000 commuters use the 101 Freeway.

"There are so many operators in the Valley, so many commuters, if we have a major incident, it's going to affect surrounding highways and surface streets," said Denike, an accident investigator at the West Valley station.

"There's nothing we can do about it."

A traffic SigAlert was issued when a Toyota heading eastbound on the 101 hit the central divider west of Coldwater, spun out and stopped sideways in the No. 3 truck lane, Denike said.

A minute later, a Freightliner truck smashed into the car, lost control and veered into the center divider, coming to rest atop the median.

Three drivers, including a truck passenger, sustained minor injuries.

The driver of the Toyota Corolla was arrested on suspicion of driving under the influence, Denike said. The identity of the man, about 35 years of age, was not released.

It took two industrial tow trucks to remove the big rig from the median.

With some drivers arriving an hour late to work, transit advocates said the answer was the cross-Valley Orange Line busway, which now stops every four minutes at each stop.

"The truth is, most people in that SigAlert would not think: Maybe I should take the bus," said Kymberleigh Richards of Southern California Transit Advocates. "They think: Maybe I should use a different freeway, moving the congestion over.

"You put all these people in their own little car, at the same time and they start cursing at each other."

dana.bartholomew(at)dailynews.com

(818) 713-3730

Trains and buses

For information about train and bus routes, call 800-COMMUTE, or go to www.metro.net. For real-time traffic information, go tortmap.metro.net/html/index.html

CAPTION(S):

photo, box

Photo:

A CHP officer and a firefighter inspect the scene in the aftermath of a crash Tuesday on the 101 Freeway.

Larry O'Rourke/Special to the Daily News

Box:

Trains and buses (see text)
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Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Mar 14, 2007
Words:546
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