Despite Quick Fix, I-95 Accident Pushes Overall Project Into 2006

Tue April 06, 2004 - National Edition

BRIDGEPORT, CT (AP) Although state crews worked near miracles in speedily repairing a section of Interstate 95 that was wiped out in a fiery crash, the accident has scrambled the bigger plan.

The tanker truck crash March 25 that wiped out a portion of I-95’s Howard Avenue overpass means the massive reconstruction of the highway’s Bridgeport corridor will take longer.

State officials say it is certain that the June 2005 target date to complete a $410.5 million project launched in 1996 to rebuild I-95 as it passes through Bridgeport is off the table.

"It will be delayed beyond 2005. Right now we don’t know how long the delay will be," Art Gruhn, chief engineer for the state Department of Transportation, told the Connecticut Post. "We have to figure out how to build a new bridge."

The tanker accident took out the recently completed overpass that was one of the last pieces of the eight-year highway reconstruction project.

Before the crash last month, work crews were in the home stretch of finishing work on the Howard Avenue and Commerce Drive bridges, and other sections stretching to the Fairfield line.

Asked how much the accident will add to final construction costs, Gruhn said he doesn’t yet know.

"When the road opened, we told everyone to go get some sleep. We will figure that out next week," Gruhn said.

Gruhn said that emergency work to install a temporary bridge in the wake of the March 25 tanker fire cost about $250,000 a day for labor and equipment, while crews worked around the clock for six days.

The southbound side of the Howard Avenue bridge was destroyed when the truck hauling fuel oil collided with a car and burst into flames. The fire burned for hours, buckling the southbound side of the overpass. The highway was immediately shut down, and traffic was not returned to the northbound lanes until three days later when steel supports were installed underneath. The southbound lanes could not be reopened for three more days until a temporary bridge was in place.