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I-95 closed in Norwalk, Connecticut after tanker fire. What to know about driving around the area.

I-95 still closed in Norwalk, Connecticut as overpass demolition starts
I-95 still closed in Norwalk, Connecticut as overpass demolition starts 02:52

Update 5/5/24: All lanes reopened Sunday on I-95 in Norwalk, Connecticut

NORWALK, Conn. -- I-95 in Norwalk, Connecticut is closed in both directions and will not reopen for several days after a fuel truck crashed and burst into flames under an overpass Thursday morning. 

Officials called it a chain-reaction crash. Just before dawn, a car swerved in front of a truck pulling a flatbed trailer as a fuel tanker approached the Fairfield Avenue overpass just past Exit 15 south

"To avoid it, this tractor-trailer swerved to the right and he hit the other tractor-trailer, which ripped open the back of his gasoline tanker," said Stephen Shay, with the Norwalk Fire Department. 

Work began early Friday morning to demolish the damaged overpass. Connecticut Gov. Ned Lamont said crews will use shears to lift it, which could take at least 24 hours.  

Watch video from Chopper 2 over the demolition early Friday morning.

State of emergency in Connecticut

Lamont has declared a state of emergency as drivers struggle to navigate detours, meaning a standstill for traffic and a slowdown for business.

"I worry about supply chain issues ... I think it will definitely impact the local merchants," Lamont said.

Local roads were a chaotic mess as thousands of drivers traveling one of the busiest interstates in the U.S. are being diverted around the accident scene.

Northbound lanes are closed to all traffic at exit 14, and southbound lanes are closed at exit 15. Travelers are advised to use I-84 as an alternate route through the state.

Metro-North has extra crews on call in case additional trains are needed.

Norwalk Public Schools are closed Friday because of potential traffic backups. All practices are canceled through the weekend, but athletic games, drama performances and proms are still allowed to take place.

Connecticut officials are urging employers to let employees work from home if possible.

I-95 overpass must be demolished

A fuel tanker crashed and burst into flames under an overpass on I-95 in Norwalk, Connecticut on May 2, 2024. The highway remained closed a crews evaluated the damage.  Chopper 2

Flames spread down the highway and roasted the overpass. The fire caused significant damage to the structure and the gas, phone and cable utility lines running underneath it. 

"This bridge is less than 10 years old, but the damage was pretty severe due to the amount of gasoline that was in the tanker. It ignited directly underneath the bridge structure. The seal did begin to overheat and warp," a Connecticut Department of Transportation official said at a news conference. "Unfortunately, it's not able to be safely reopened in either direction underneath that bridge."

"The bridge was damaged, the heat from the burning fuel compromised some of the bridge, so that bridge is going to have to come down," Lamont said.

Later, he said on X, "The overpass near Exit 15 on I-95 in Norwalk needs to be demolished and the road needs to be repaved. Expect this area of the highway to remain closed through at least Monday. Avoid driving in the area."

State emergency management director Bill Turner said, "Anyone that drives into that area, in that geographical footprint, will receive a wireless alert on their cell phone advising them to avoid the area."

The closed stretch of I-95 serves 160,000 vehicles per day, according to the governor's office. 

Click here to watch Chopper 2 over the scene

"The traffic jams are horrendous" 

The charred remnants of two trucks and a passenger vehicle sit on shuttered I-95 in Norwalk, Connecticut after a fiery crash shut down the highway on May 2, 2024. CBS New York

"Thank God no serious injuries, but it has resulted in the closing of I-95 North and South and that is incredible in terms of the traffic jams and what's happening there," said Lamont. 

Hours after the fire was put out, the charred remnants of two trucks and a passenger vehicle sat on the shuttered highway between Exits 15 and 16. 

Northbound lane closures started at Exit 13 in Darien, according to the Connecticut Department of Transportation.  

"I know what an incredible inconvenience this is for people and all I can ask you to do is stay away from that area as best you can. The traffic jams are horrendous," said Lamont. 

Drivers from Bridgeport to Port Chester, New York received text alerts to avoid I-95 and trucking companies were told to use I-87 and I-84 instead, Lamont said. 

"For a lot of truckers, we are on the clock. So we can only work 14 hours and drive 11 hours. So this impact, it slows down the delivery time for our loads," said Avril Jenerette, a trucker. 

Drivers should expect delays on the Merritt Parkway, which trucks are not allowed on, while crews work to clear 95.

"Our highways team is working closely with Connecticut's DOT on the tanker fire that has closed I-95 in Norwalk. Please heed local authorities on detours and avoid the area if possible. Thank you to the first responders who are dealing with the fire and keeping other drivers safe," Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg posted on social media. 

Thousands of gallons of fuel spilled

The aftermath of a tractor-trailer fire on I-95 in Conn. on May 2, 2024.  CBS2

The truck was carrying 8,500 gallons of fuel and 75% either burned or spilled onto the highway, officials said. 

Hazmat crews responded to the spill and had concerns about material getting into the Norwalk River, but testing revealed no impact on air or water quality. 

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