Traffic engineers did the math on the 40,000 pounds of feathers hauled by the semi and concluded there were roughly 18 million feathers.
A semi filled with chicken feathers overturned on northbound Interstate 5 in Federal Way, snarling the Wednesday morning commute.
The Washington State Department of Transportation said 40,000 pounds of feathers were spilled onto the roadway. All lanes were blocked at times as crews worked to remove the truck and scoop up the feathers. The freeway reopened about 7:30 a.m., but a backup stretched for miles.
No other vehicles were involved and no injuries were reported, according to the State Patrol.
The driver of the semi that rolled over south of South 320th Street admitted to investigators that he had fallen asleep, Trooper Rick Johnson said.
Johnson said that in similar cases drivers have been cited for second-degree negligent driving and fined $550. The company that employed the driver will also likely have to pay for the cleanup and to repair a section of a guardrail damaged in the crash, he said.
Johnson said he did not know where the feathers were headed, but confirmed that chicken feathers “definitely have an odor.”
“I asked (colleagues) to tell me the truth about whether I smell like chicken,” Johnson said.
Chicken feathers, which can be broken down into keratin-based fibers, have a number of commercial uses.
Scientists have found they add durability and strength to plastic components used in cars. The pulp has been used to make paper and filters and to replace some percentage of wood used in disposable diapers, according to the USDA’s Agricultural Research Service. Chicken feathers are also being used to make fully biodegradable gardening containers as well as weather- and sound-proof insulation.
The agency’s traffic engineers did the math: 40,000 pounds of chicken feathers would mean about 18 million feathers.