Demolition begins on CT overpass damaged in I-95 tanker fire; part of highway to remain closed

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Friday, May 3, 2024
I-95 in CT to be closed for days after fiery crash damages bridge
Part of I-95 in Norwalk, Connecticut will remain closed while an overpass in Norwalk is demolished following a tanker fire

NORWALK, Connecticut -- Drivers in Norwalk, Connecticut, are coping with a partial closure of Interstate 95 on Friday after a gasoline tanker fire damaged an overpass.

Workers on Friday began removing a bridge over the highway that was damaged in the fiery crash - a project expected to keep both sides of I-95 closed through the weekend and extend a traffic nightmare on the major artery linking New England and New York.

Crews took down metal fencing on the span in Norwalk before a large excavator began demolishing the concrete sides of the structure. Heavy equipment was brought in overnight. Governor Ned Lamont said the hope is to reopen the highway by Monday morning.

For three hours, flames raged out of controlafter a gasoline tanker, filled to the brim with 9,000 gallons of fuel, caught fire.

"This bridge is less than 10 years old and, you know, but the damage was pretty severe due to the amount of gasoline that was in the tanker ignited directly underneath the bridge structure," Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner Garrett Eucalitto said. "The steel did begin to overheat and warp."

The accident happened at 5:30 a.m. on the southbound side of I-95 in Norwalk, Connecticut.

Officials say a car cut off a tractor-trailer. The gasoline truck then swerved to avoid them, but the back of the tanker ripped apart.

Gas spewed on the road and cars, then burst into flames, which cooked the steel of the Fairfield Avenue Overpass, warping the bridge and damaging it beyond repair.

On the northbound side, gas and telephone utility lines running under the bridge were damaged.

Fortunately, no one was injured.

Structural engineers determined the overpass must come down as traffic continues to snake around to avoid the area.

"There'll be extra rail service as needed if you want to go into New York and get up to Hartford, depending on where you're going from. My recommendation is if you can't stay home, take the train stay away from the cars," Governor Ned Lamont said.

I-95 will remain closed in both directions between exits 14 and 15. There are some 160,000 vehicles that drive through that area every day that now need to use a different route.

City officials are also working to help alleviate the flow of traffic in the area.

"We've scheduled some different staggering work times for people so that they can come in later, maybe go home earlier so we can reduce some of the traffic. But we're also asking a lot of our staff to work from home. So we feel that we'll keep some of the traffic off the road," Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling said.

School is closed Friday in Norwalk, including after-school activities. However, prom, games, and drama performances remain on.

The damage is expected to cost truckers millions that rely on that corridor.

The accident was reminiscent of a deadly one last year in Philadelphia when a tractor-trailer carrying gasoline along I-95 lost control and caught fire, destroying a section of the highway.

RELATED: Reconstruction of collapsed portion of I-95 in Philadelphia hits major milestone

Thursday's crash also came just over a year after a similar wreck on I-95 in Connecticut that also forced the closure of the highway. In that April 2023 crash, a fuel truck caught fire after colliding with a stopped car on the Gold Star Memorial Bridge between New London and Groton. The fuel truck driver was killed. The crash shut down the southbound side of the bridge for hours, while the northbound side was closed briefly. The driver of the car was recently charged with negligent homicide.

(The Associated Press contributed to this report.)