close
close

I-95 in Connecticut will close for days after fire damages bridge, governor says

HARTFORD, Conn. (AP) — The main traffic artery linking New England to New York will be closed in Connecticut for days after a tanker truck fire damaged a bridge over Interstate 95, people said Thursday. Governor Ned Lamont.

The tanker truck full of gasoline burst into flames in a three-vehicle crash Thursday on I-95 in southwestern Connecticut, closing the East Coast’s main north-south highway and causing major traffic jams. While Lamont said there were no serious injuries in the 5:30 a.m. crash in Norwalk, the crash caused damage to the bridge above it.

“The heat from the burning fuel compromised part of the bridge, so that bridge will have to come down and demolition will begin first thing tomorrow morning,” Lamont said at a briefing Thursday night in Hartford.

He said the hope is to reopen the interstate Monday morning.

Norwalk Mayor Harry Rilling said his city’s schools will be closed Friday. It is unclear if they will reopen on Monday. He urged local employers to consider allowing employees to work from home on Friday, if possible, or use the MetroNorth commuter rail. Additional trains are being added to the rail line, officials said.

While the bridge was less than 10 years old, “the damage was quite severe due to the amount of gasoline that was in the tanker truck that caught fire directly under the bridge structure,” said Connecticut Department of Transportation Commissioner Garrett Eucalitto. “The steel began to overheat and warp.”

This image provided by the Norwalk Police Department shows the scene of a tanker truck fire on I-95 in Norwalk, Connecticut, on Thursday, May 2, 2024. Both sides of I-95, the main north- south of the east coast, were closed.  after the accident that occurred early in the morning between a passenger car, a truck with a trailer and a tanker truck carrying 8,500 gallons (about 32,000 liters) of gasoline.  (Norwalk Police Department via AP)

This image provided by the Norwalk Police Department shows the scene of a tanker truck fire on I-95 in Norwalk, Connecticut, on Thursday, May 2, 2024. Both sides of I-95, the main north- south of the east coast, were closed. after the accident that occurred early in the morning between a passenger car, a truck with a trailer and a tanker truck carrying 8,500 gallons (about 32,000 liters) of gasoline. (Norwalk Police Department via AP)

The tanker was carrying a load of about 8,500 gallons (32,000 liters) when it crashed under the Fairfield Avenue bridge, authorities said. The overpass did not appear to be in danger of collapsing, said Scott Hill, chief engineer for the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

Eucalitto said it is not safe to allow traffic to pass under the bridge in either direction, so the entire bridge, which has beams crossing both sections of the road, must be removed.

Large equipment was brought to Connecticut Thursday afternoon to complete the demolition, which is expected to begin around 3 a.m. Friday. Lamont said the work could take 24 hours or more to complete. After that, the road may need to be repaved before it can be reopened.

In this image provided by the Connecticut Governor's Office, emergency personnel work at the scene of a fiery early morning crash that closed both sides of Interstate 95, the East Coast's main north-south highway, in southwest Connecticut. Connecticut, on Thursday, May 2.  2024, in Norwalk, Connecticut (Norwalk Fire Department/Connecticut Governor's Office via AP)

In this image provided by the Connecticut Governor’s Office, emergency personnel work at the scene of a fiery early morning crash that closed both sides of Interstate 95, the main north-south highway on the East Coast, in southwest Connecticut. Connecticut, on Thursday, May 2. 2024, in Norwalk, Connecticut (Norwalk Fire Department/Connecticut Governor’s Office via AP)

It will likely take about a year to replace the bridge, a major artery in the city of more than 91,000 residents. Lamont said he hopes to receive a federal refund to cover the cost.

“I’m glad everyone is okay,” Lisa Brinton, who lives south of I-95, told Hearst Connecticut Media. “My concern is the after-effect. Norwalk is divided in half by 95 and I go over the Fairfield Avenue Bridge every day.”

The cause of the accident remains under police investigation and no charges have been filed.

About 160,000 vehicles travel that portion of I-95 daily in both directions, Eucalitto said.

Traffic was backed up for dozens of miles during the morning rush hour, with long delays remaining in the area into Thursday night and expected into the weekend. Slow detours were put in place, directing traffic away from the highway and around the crash site. The accident paralyzed other highways and secondary roads. The area’s main alternate route, Merritt Parkway, cannot be used by trucks because that highway’s underpasses are too low.

Text alerts were sent to residents of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, and transportation companies that use the section of I-95 were notified to find alternative routes and means of travel, he said. US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was also notified.

“I know what an incredible inconvenience this is for people and all I can ask you to do is stay away from that area as best you can,” Lamont said during an earlier briefing in Hartford. “Traffic jams are terrible.”

Crews dumped about 4,000 gallons (about 15,142 liters) of gasoline that did not burn and remained in the tanker. Utility crews were also working to replace downed wires.

Environmental crews worked to clean up the gasoline and firefighting foam. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said the runoff was contained in a retention pond and did not reach the Norwalk River or the city’s harbor.

The accident reminded last years Fatal crash in Philadelphia along I-95 when a tractor-trailer carrying gasoline lost control and caught fire, destroying a stretch of road.

The accident also came a little more than a year after a similar accident on I-95 in Connecticut that forced the closure of the highway.

In April 2023, another fuel truck caught fire after colliding with a stopped car on the Gold Star Memorial Bridge between New London and Groton. The driver of the fuel truck died. The accident closed the south side of the bridge for hours, while the north side was closed briefly. The car driver He was recently charged with negligent homicide.

——

Associated Press writer Dave Collins contributed to this report.