Southbound lanes on U.S. Highway 101 in Redwood City have reopened after being closed for more than 8 hours following a wreck Tuesday afternoon involving an overturned fuel tanker.
Three of the five northbound lanes were open early Wednesday morning but traffic was heavy and backed up for about a mile, according to the California Highway Patrol and other reports.
A nine-mile stretch of 101 was closed following the wreck in Redwood City. The tanker has been removed from the highway, but crews are still working to clean up the spill, the CHP reported.
Local streets and arterials in Palo Alto and up and down the Peninsula were reported jammed with stand-still traffic during the homebound commute hours.
A van collided with a big-rig hauling two gasoline tankers near Maple Road at around 1:45 p.m., causing the rear tanker to overturn and spill an estimated 1,600 gallons of fuel onto the highway, the CHP said.
Both directions of the highway had been closed between Highway 84 and Highway 92 since 4 p.m. as crews work to clean up the fuel.
CalTrans officials said 101 was closed because gasoline that leaked into drainage ditches along the highway posed an explosive threat to drivers.
The highway closure wreaked havoc on the evening commute, causing gridlock in one of the busiest traffic areas in the Bay Area. One driver reported that the trip from San Francisco to San Mateo took more than an hour and a half.
The cleanup process has involved many steps, some of them potentially dangerous, and has required fire and hazmat crews to be extra careful, said Redwood City fire officials.
Aside from dreadful traffic and the potential for gasoline to ignite, protection of marine life became a concern as cleanup crews scurried to stunt the fuel from reaching pipes that lead to San Francisco Bay. None of the fuel appears to have gone that far, according to officials.
Before hazmat crews could begin pumping out gas and water from drainage ditches along the highway, fire crews needed to upright the overturned tanker and haul it off the road. They could not upright the tanker until it was emptied of all remaining gasoline, Caltrans official Lauren Wonders said.
No major injuries were reported as a result of the accident, the CHP said.