Traffic snarled as workers begin removing I-95 overpass scorched in Connecticut fuel truck inferno


NORWALK, Conn. — Workers on Friday began removing a bridge over a Connecticut highway that was damaged in a fiery crash involving a gasoline tanker truck — a project expected to keep both sides of Interstate 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. Gov. Ned Lamont said the hope is to reopen the highway by Monday morning.

Traffic on both sides of the highway was being corralled from three travel lanes into exit-only lanes as drivers were detoured onto local streets around the crash site. Livestreams showed cars and trucks creeping slowly on the exit ramps. The state Department of Transportation said the travel time was over an hour for the 16 miles (26 kilometers) from the New York border to Route 7 in Norwalk on I-95 north.

The crash happened at around 5:30 a.m. Thursday on the southbound side of the highway. The tanker truck, carrying about 8,500 gallons (32,000 liters) of gas, burst into flames under the Fairfield Avenue bridge after a collision with a tractor trailer and a car. Highway traffic camera video of the scene showed the massive fire engulfing the span. Officials said no one was seriously injured. The cause of the wreck remained under investigation.

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

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

John Blair, the president of the Motor Transport Association of Connecticut, which represents the trucking industry, said the group has been working with the state police and DOT to get the word out to truckers across the Northeast about safe alternate routes.

He said the group has had a lot of problems over the past 24 hours with tractor-trailer drivers who don’t know Connecticut well striking low bridges or taking down power lines on local roads as they try to drive around the closure in Norwalk.

“We’ve been sending out emails and social media posts and text messages,” he said, noting that he’s been forwarding information as he receives it to his counterparts in other New England states.

He said the group has been trying to get long-haul truckers to avoid that part of state.

“We are pushing them up north as best as we can,” he said. “We’re trying to get to them before they get to Connecticut and have them avoid 95 completely.”

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said in social media postings that federal highway officials were working with Connecticut authorities.

The crash significantly increased traffic on other highways and secondary roads. The major alternate route in the area, the Merritt Parkway, cannot be used by trucks because its underpasses are too low.

Norwalk schools were closed Friday, and Mayor Harry Rilling urged local employers to consider allowing employees to work from home

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.

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.



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