Coffee cargo source of all day traffic snarl on I-12

Thirty-thousand pounds of coffee.

That’s what caused a traffic nightmare for motorists as Interstate 12 East between Holden and Albany was shut down most of Wednesday as crews unloaded box after box of coffee from an 18-wheeler involved in a crash and cleaned up the mess left behind from the accident.

Both eastbound lanes reopened to traffic around 3:45 p.m. after enough of the crash was cleared, but State Police said they planned to shut off the roadway again after 8 p.m. to finish the work.

The roadway chaos began when an 18-wheeler carrying at least 30,000 pounds of coffee beans rear-ended two other 18-wheelers carrying asphalt around midnight Tuesday, said Trooper 1st Class Jared Sandifer, a State Police spokesman.

Troopers are unsure what exactly caused the coffee carrier to hit the asphalt trucks, but the driver of the coffee truck was cited for following too close, Sandifer said.

Authorities shut down the highway just after midnight, Sandifer said.

No lanes were cleared for traffic until 12:20 p.m., when the inside lane was reopened for business.

Both lanes came open about three hours later, after crews moved the wrecked trucks to the side of the road and opened the roadways to let rush-hour traffic through, Sandifer said.

Cleanup efforts were suspended during that time.

Troopers were unsure Wednesday how long the renewed cleanup efforts would take once they resumed at 8 p.m., he said.

“We’ll come back later tonight and start again,” he said.

Most of the crews’ work Wednesday involved moving a seemingly endless amounts of coffee boxes from one truck to another. Crews could be seen Wednesday morning tossing box after box into the other trailer.

Photos on State Police’s Facebook page showed the coffee beans were from Farmer Bros., a coffee, tea and spices company in Torrance, Calif.

Much of the coffee appeared to stay in the truck, Sandifer said. It just took so long to move because there was so much of it.

“Thirty thousand pounds, that’s a lot,” Sandifer said.

Sandifer said troopers were unsure about the amount of asphalt in the other 18-wheelers or whether the asphalt also had to be loaded onto another trailer.

The only injuries reported in the crash were minor ones to the drivers of the 18-wheelers, Sandifer said.

Troopers detoured traffic to U.S. 190 during the closure and likely will do so again when the interstate is closed Wednesday evening.