Traffic jam ends after 14-hour negotiation with man who threatened to jump off overpass

A highway in California was backed up for more than 14 hours while officials negotiated with a man who was threatening to jump off an overpass.

The man threatened to jump over the railing of the Old Middlefield Way offramp over Highway 101 in Mountain View on Tuesday, March 4. 

CHP responded to calls around 8 a.m. that a man had been seen walking along the offramp. According to officer Dave LaRock, officials arrived to the scene to find the man sitting on the south railing facing northbound traffic.

Traffic was shut down across all northbound lanes as crisis negotiators arrived to speak with the man. Throughout the night, several family members from Marin County were brought to the man in an attempt to aid the negotiation efforts. Fire personnel was stationed nearby throughout the entire incident.

“Eventually the subject voluntarily came to the other side of the railing and, without resistance, was taken away for mental evaluation,” LaRock said.

Throughout the negotiation, cars on northbound Highway 101 were trapped in a traffic jam. For the first hour, drivers were in a standstill, and only able to bypass the accident using the Old Middlefield Way offramp, which has one lane that reconnects with the highway on the other side of the intersection. A massive backup was created, as six laned of traffic was cut down to one, said LaRock.

The backup lasted through 10 p.m. that evening.

Traffic was managed by the CHP, Caltrans, and Mountain View Police Department.

“The CHP will always use time to our advantage. There is no need to rush in when one decision could lead to a negative result,” LaRock said. “Time doesn’t hurt anybody, and words — talking and trying to find resolution — worked in our favor.”

The California Highway Patrol was finally able to convince the man to safely step back over the railing and took him into custody around 10:45 p.m. The man was transported in an ambulance and put on a 72-hour psychiatric hold.