COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) — Transportation officials plan to replace a bridge that was charred early Wednesday morning when a tanker truck carrying ethanol overturned, caught fire and forced closures on two major highways near Ohio's capital, leading to damage possibly up to $1 million and two citations for the driver.
The tanker overturned near a ramp between Interstates 270 and 70 on the west side of Columbus, burning beneath an I-70 bridge that carries traffic toward downtown. The flames cracked the concrete, melted metal reinforcement bars and compromised structural steel, so the state decided it must replace the roughly 60-foot span, Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman Matt Bruning said.
"We're not taking any chances," Bruning said, adding that safety is the first priority. "What we don't want to do is try to reopen that and have something catastrophic happen."
Officials anticipate the replacement could take a month and cost between $500,000 and $1 million, though the contract for the work is expected to include financial incentives for the contractor to complete the project sooner, Bruning said. He said federal highway funds are available for such emergency repair work.
Some sections of highway that were initially closed or blocked because of the fire were reopened by Wednesday night. Officials were making plans to use some westbound lanes as eastbound lanes to get eastbound traffic on that section of I-70 flowing again by midday Friday, in time for holiday weekend travel and the massive Fourth of July celebration and fireworks show near downtown.
Police said the tanker truck driver, a 50-year-old man from Beavercreek, suffered relatively minor injuries and was cited for transporting a hazardous load within city limits and for failure to control. The driver had told police that he was on a ramp when he felt a bump, and that the truck shifted and he lost control, according to a summary posted on the department's official Facebook page and cited by a police spokeswoman.
Associated Press reporter Jennifer Smola contributed to this report.