DOT chief: Deteriorating roads could lead to more freak accidents

DOT chief: Deteriorating roads could lead to more freak accidents »Play Video
The chunk of concrete smashed through the windshield of the family's car.
SEATTLE -- A piece of deteriorating I-5 pavement shot through the air and hit a car this weekend, and the state's transportation chief says it might not be the last time we see such a freak accident.

Henry Jessop and his family were headed down I-5 near Northgate on Saturday when a brick-sized concrete panel came off the road, crashed through car's windshield and hit Jessop.

"The rock hit me so hard in the chest, it literally took my breath away," Jessop said.

Secretary of Transportation Paula Hammond said road crews built much of the interstate in the 1960s, and more than 50 years of heavy use has taken its toll. Hammond said the agency doesn't have the staff or cash to fix everything that's falling apart, and the statewide to-do list just keeps getting bigger.

"As our transportation system has more wear and tear on it, and as we go longer without revenue dollars to just take care of the system that we have, we're unfortunately going to see more of this kind of thing," she said.

The idea of a similar accident happening to other motorists doesn't sit well with Cheryl Gennaios, whose sister was at the wheel when the pavement chunk smashed into her brother-in-law.

"We have to fix these problems and we have to take it seriously," she said. "You know, a bump in the road really could take you down."

Road crews laid down a temporary patch within hours of Jessop's injury, and Hammond said her agency will review the case to see if that stretch of road was slated for repairs.

"Who would think a piece of concrete would fly up off a freeway?" Hammond said. "It's not a condition we like. It's not what we want to see our transportation system do or how it should perform."

The Department of Transportation has $25 million set aside to do triage repairs on concrete panels, but a full replacement job would cost $1 billion.