Connecticut DOT Reopens Damaged Section of I-95

In roughly 80 hours, the Connecticut Department of Transportation completed the rapid repair and reopening of a section I-95 in Norwalk damaged by a tanker truck crash and fire on May 2.

[Above photo by Connecticut DOT]

In a situation strikingly similar to one that occurred in Pennsylvania in June 2023, the tanker truck crash and fire seriously damaged the highway pavement and an overpass on I-95 near Exit 15 in Norwalk. The incident forced the Connecticut DOT to close I-95 in both directions, with Governor Ned Lamont (D) subsequently establishing a state of emergency due to the travel impacts of that closure.

Photo via EarthCam

However, by May 5, Connecticut DOT crews and contractors had completely demolished the Fairfield Avenue Bridge overpass spanning I-95; removed tons of concrete, steel, and debris from the roadway; then milled and repaved the roadway, adding pavement markings as well.

While crews were working to reopen I-95, Connecticut DOT engineers developed preliminary replacement plans of the Fairfield Avenue Bridge. Those initial designs are expected to be completed within the next two weeks, the agency said.

“It is truly amazing that in less than 80 hours from that fiery crash Thursday that shut down traffic in both directions, the highway again is fully open,” the governor said in a statement.

“It takes a village, and from the response from local and state police and fire departments to the environmental cleanup by the Connecticut Department of Energy and Environmental Protection and the demolition and rebuilding by the Connecticut DOT and contractors, everyone did their part,” Gov. Lamont stressed. “I am impressed by these efforts and thankful for the dedication, skill, and labor of everyone who has been involved.”

Concurrently, the Federal Highway Administration made $3 million in “quick release” emergency relief funds available to the Connecticut DOT following a request from the governor to help offset the costs to remove debris and reconstruct the Fairfield Avenue Bridge over I-95.  “I-95 is a critical highway—for both the people of Connecticut and our nation’s transportation network,” said Pete Buttigieg, secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation in a statement.

“These emergency funds helped Connecticut DOT safely repair and reopen the road in less than 80 hours and can now help with costs associated with rebuilding the bridge,” he said.

Garrett Eucalitto. Photo by the Connecticut DOT.

“This has been a team effort, and I can’t thank enough our crews, contractors, and workers who spent the weekend ensuring the public could resume traveling on I-95 as soon as possible,” added Connecticut DOT Commissioner Garrett Eucalitto.

“While the roadway is open, the work continues as we are planning how and when the Fairfield Avenue Bridge will be replaced,” he said.

The Pennsylvania Department of Transportation made a similar request of the FHWA as it dealt with its own fire-damaged highway bridge incident in June 2023. Subsequently later that month, FHWA issued $3 million in emergency funds to PennDOT to support highway traffic “mitigation efforts” around that now-repaired bridge.

[Editor’s note: the time-lapse video below chronicles the six-day effort to install a temporary bridge structure to allow the vital I-95 highway to be fully reopened.]

PennDOT said that money helped defray the cost of demolition for the damaged structure, plus the emergency repairs necessary to restore the roadway’s ability to handle its traffic volumes of 160,000 vehicles per day.

The Georgia Department of Transportation also faced a similar fire-related highway closure in March 2017, when an arsonist triggered a massive blaze under key north/south I-85 highway bridges, causing one of those structures to completely collapse.

Yet, despite the amount of demolition and repair work required, the agency managed to reopen that major highway just six weeks.

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