I-95 in Connecticut remains closed for days after fire accident damages bridge | Police and courts

HARTFORD — The main artery connecting New England and New York will be closed for days in Connecticut after a tanker fire damaged a bridge over Interstate 95, Gov. Ned Lamont said Thursday.

The tanker truck full of gasoline burst into flames in a three-vehicle crash on I-95 in southwestern Connecticut on Thursday, 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. accident in Norwalk, the crash caused damage to the bridge above.

“The heat from the burning fuel has damaged part of the bridge, requiring the bridge to be demolished and demolition will begin first thing tomorrow morning,” Lamont said.

Lamont said the hope is to reopen the highway by Monday morning.

Text message alerts have been sent to residents of Connecticut, New York and New Jersey, and trucking companies using the main New York-New England artery have been asked to find alternative routes and travel options, he said. US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg was also notified.

“I know what an incredible inconvenience this is for people, and I can only ask that you stay away from this area as best you can,” Lamont said during a briefing in Hartford. “The traffic jams are terrible.”

Traffic was backed up for dozens of miles during the morning rush hour, and the accident caused other highways and secondary roads to come to a standstill. The main alternate route in the area, the Merritt Parkway, cannot be used by trucks because the underpasses on this highway are too low.

The accident was reminiscent of last year's fatal accident in Philadelphia on I-95, when a tractor-trailer loaded with gasoline lost control, caught fire and destroyed a section of the highway.

Thursday's accident occurred under the Fairfield Avenue bridge. The overpass was damaged but did not appear to be in danger of collapsing, said Scott Hill, chief engineer for the Connecticut Department of Transportation.

But after engineers were sent to assess the damage, the governor's office said Thursday afternoon that the bridge will likely need to be replaced. In the meantime, slow diversions were put in place to direct traffic off the highway and around the scene of the accident.

Lamont planned to provide an update on the highway's status at 5 p.m

Utility crews also worked to replace broken lines, and crews also had to unload about 3,000 gallons of gasoline that remained on the tanker, which was carrying a load of about 8,500 gallons at the time of the accident, officials said.

“Gasoline can heat the bridge significantly and cause the steel to deform,” Hill said. “Once we figure out everything related to the safety of the traveling public and what we can and cannot do, we will provide you with further updates.”

Environmental crews also worked to clean up gasoline and firefighting foam. The Department of Energy and Environmental Protection said the runoff was contained in a retention basin and did not make it into the Norwalk River.

The accident came a little more than a year after a similar accident on Interstate 95 in Connecticut that forced the highway's closure.

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

Anna Harden

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