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Fatal Crash Destroys 2 TN Bridges

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

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Repairs are underway in Tennessee to remedy an interstate traffic nightmare after a gas truck exploded, killing the driver and destroying two bridges—one of which was brand new and almost complete.

The tanker truck loaded with fuel crashed into a vertical column supporting an I-65 overpass bridge in Franklin, TN, about 3:40 a.m. Aug. 15. The explosion and fire that followed destroyed the existing bridge and severely damaged its newly constructed replacement.

The accident shut down both directions of I-65, backing up traffic for hours. Although some traffic flow was restored, the Tennessee Department of Transportation says the congestion will see little relief as crews scramble to put up a replacement before Thanksgiving.

I-65 bridge explosion Franklin Police Department
Photos: Franklin Police Department

A tanker truck carrying fuel crashed into a I-65 overpass bridge in Tennessee, killing the driver and destroying the bridge and its almost-completed replacement structure.

The Federal Highway Administration has released $1 million in emergency funds to help TDOT move along with repairs.

'Truly Horrific Scene'

The Franklin Police Department identified the victim as 67-year-old Bobby Bobo, a driver for Edwards Oil Inc. in Lawrenceburg, TN. Less than 40 minutes before the accident, Bobo had left a West Nashville terminal with 9,000 gallons of gasoline, police said.

"Our thoughts and prayers remain with the family of [the victim] who tragically lost his life in the crash," the police department said.

Franklin Police Lt. Charlie Warner told Fox17.com it was a "truly horrific scene."

The cause of the accident is under investigation, but police said they believed the driver was traveling at interstate speeds when the crash happened. The department's Critical Incident response team is investigating.

"Because of the complexity of the scene, the results of the investigation will not be available immediately," the police department stated.

Firefighters were able to extinguish the blaze within 30 minutes, and storm water experts said the area water supply was not compromised by fuel runoff, according to the police department.

Two Bridges Torn Down

The existing bridge was slated to be replaced with a new 10-lane, two-bridge structure. The two new bridges, each 278 feet long and 72 feet wide, are part of a $46.1 million project to widen a four-mile section of I-65.

TDOT
Facebook / myTDOT

The existing bridge got so hot that "the steel inside the concrete became unattached to the concrete," TDOT said. The structure was completely demolished Aug. 16.

Five of the new structure's lanes would have been opened by winter. The entire bridge was expected to open in 2016.

What was left of the original bridge was completely demolished Aug. 16 for safety reasons.

The existing bridge got so hot "the steel inside the concrete became unattached to the concrete," Paul Degges, TDOT's deputy commissioner and chief engineer, said at a news conference, according to Engineering News-Record.

"It's not safe to carry a vehicle load, and we are concerned that we can't really calculate if it can stand up on its own," he said.

"The fire deformed all those beams so [the bridge] is not usable for traffic anymore," Degges said of the replacement bridge, which was constructed of steel beams with a concrete deck.

Degges said steel has already been fabricated for the second bridge, but new abutments and piers still need to be built.

TDOT plans to set the beams during the first week of October and expects to open the bridge by Nov. 27.

Franklintn.gov

TDOT has started work on the replacement bridge, which it hopes to have open by Nov. 27.

Lojac Construction, the main contractor for project, and Brown Builders will oversee the reconstruction.

Feds Send $1M

U.S. Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx released $1 million in emergency relief funds on Aug.20 to help TDOT cover the repair costs.

"Commuters rely on this key link every day to get to jobs, shopping, school and back to their homes, and these funds are a down payment on our commitment to restoring this important transportation connection to the people of Tennessee," said Foxx.

The Federal Highway Administration's emergency relief funds will go towards fast-tracking the entire reconstruction of the bridge and the interchange at the crash site. The money will reimburse TDOT for emergency work done immediately after the crash, and FHWA will provide additional funds once permanent repairs are identified and cost estimates are completed.

"FHWA is committed to working with the state to accelerate the construction of this bridge," said Gregory Nadeau, Acting Federal Highway Administrator. "We know that I-65 is heavily used in the region by residents and businesses alike and understand the urgency to get this bridge up and running again."

   

Tagged categories: Bridges; Department of Transportation (DOT); Explosions; Fatalities; Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); Fire

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