NEWHALL - Traffic through the Newhall Pass backed up more than usual Tuesday morning as commuters who sat out Monday's drive returned to Interstate 5, sharing it with truckers who are barred from their own route through a fire-damaged tunnel.
Traffic on the Golden State Freeway approaching the scene of Friday's deadly truck pileup near Santa Clarita backed up some 10 miles to Valencia Boulevard as commuters and truckers made their way south. Similar jams were expected for the drive home.
"Everyone who did not plan to go to work Monday went back today," said Officer John Lutz of the California Highway Patrol's Newhall station. "Everyone who only knows one way to work took that one way."
Metrolink commuter trains, which saw double their usual passenger load Monday along the Antelope Valley Line, saw fewer travelers on Tuesday, spokeswoman Denise Tyrrell said.
"It wasn't as high a number, but it was more than usual," Tyrrell said, adding that final figures weren't yet available.
Metrolink will continue expanded service - with extra cars and trains - through Friday. Officials will monitor ridership to determine whether additional service will be needed next week. Overflow parking lots will be available for the Newhall and Soledad Canyon Road stations.
"We're going to keep it going. We want to give them a genuine opportunity to evaluate the service," Tyrrell said, noting that Tuesday's heavy traffic might prompt commuters to return to the train.
"Nothing succeeds like a little exposure."
It will be months before the truck-bypass tunnel is repaired after Friday night's catastrophic crash. Two truckers and a 6-year-old boy riding with his father died, and 31 vehicles - many of them big-rig trucks - were mangled from fire and explosions in a chain-reaction crash inside the 550-foot-long tunnel.
The state Department of Transportation closed passenger lanes that cross over the truck tunnel through the weekend, but engineers found the lanes to be safe and the freeway reopened early Monday. The Golden State Freeway is heavily used by truckers who haul produce and livestock from the Central Valley and goods from Southern California ports. Lines of big-rigs headed south in the right lanes and traffic was gridlocked approaching a three-lane stretch near the closed bypass.
BY PATRICIA FARRELL AIDEM