Northbound I-95 Reopens Earlier than Expected, Repairs Progress

Tue March 30, 2004 - National Edition

BRIDGEPORT, CT (AP) A section of Interstate 95 severely damaged in a fiery crash reopened for northbound traffic earlier than expected, meaning one fewer commuter headache for motorists this workweek.

"The difference is incredible," Massachusetts-bound traveler Kevin Carroll, 61, said Monday. "The state was amazing. They had a plan in place within hours. They’re working fast."

The scheduled reopening of the more heavily damaged southbound lanes, meanwhile, was pushed up to Thursday. Officials had originally expected the temporary fix to take several days longer.

The heavily traveled section of Interstate 95, the main link between New York and Boston, was severely damaged when a truck carrying 12,000 gallons of home heating oil struck a barrier and erupted into flames Thursday. No one was seriously injured.

Construction workers cheered as a parade of cars, escorted by police, traveled on the northbound section for the first time Sunday.

"A lot of hard work was put into that," said highway worker Larry Daddio, holding a cigar as he watched traffic creep across the pavement shortly after 5 p.m.

The speed limit on the northbound lanes was cut to 45 mph.

"We’re slowing down the northbound traffic and making sure they abide by the speed limit," state police spokesman Sgt. J. Paul Vance said Monday. Rush hour traffic slowed further as motorists gawked at the gap in the southbound lanes.

Vance said the detours for southbound traffic were working well, but as expected there were backups and slow-moving traffic on alternate routes.

Bridgeport schools were placed on a 90-minute delay to help ease the traffic volume on local streets.

The damage shut down a one-mile stretch of the highway, which normally carries 120,000 vehicles a day.