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Interstate 5 closure likely to disrupt already fragile supply chain

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Vanessa Finney
JPR News
Trucks backed up in Ashland off Exit 11 of I-5 on Thursday, Dec. 16, as the West Coast's main north-south supply route was closed for about 20 hours by snow and ice

The highway was closed from Wednesday evening until Thursday afternoon near the Oregon-California border. It will likely cause delays in delivery of goods.

This week, weather caused a nearly 20-hour closure of I-5 near the Oregon-California border.

The pause of traffic in both directions on the major interstate highway, and essentially no detour options for large rigs, will almost certainly result in delayed deliveries of various goods.

Mark Gibson, owner of Siskiyou trucking company in Ashland, says weather-related slowdowns are common in the area, but he says a shut down this long on a major interstate highway is not.

“I would not consider that typical at all,” Gibson said.

The closure started Wednesday evening as blizzard conditions made the freeway hazardous. Although the freeway was closed less than a day, Gibson says the supply will feel the effects.

“Once the road does open, they’ll typically open it slowly and let a metered amount of traffic through so everybody isn’t charging through all at once,” He said. “And then downstream, those drivers are going to miss their delivery times.”

Gibson says this delay in deliveries is compounded by the effects of the pandemic, which has already impacted the stability of the supply chain.

“I think given the current supply chain problems that we have, it’s definitely going to have a greater effect than it would in other years,” he said.

Truck drivers personally dealt with the closure as they were faced with finding a place to sleep — an issue Gibson says is compounded by a lack of rest areas and truck stops.

“There’s a nationwide shortage, and when we have a situation like this, the road gets closed, the truck stops fill up very quickly, rest areas fill up very quickly and then what they do is they’ll turn traffic around and send them the other way,” Gibson said. “Trucks will have to go as far as they need to find a safe place to park, and that could be 30, 40, 50 miles, in a situation like this.”

Gibson believes package deliveries will only be delayed by a few days, at most. Good news for people expecting holiday packages.

“Christmas is still a week and a half away,” Gibson said. “I don’t know that it would affect that.”

The closure, which was made at the request of the California Department of Transportation, ended after noon on Thursday.
Copyright 2021 Oregon Public Broadcasting. To see more, visit Oregon Public Broadcasting.

Alex Hasenstab