BALDWIN COUNTY, Ala. (WALA) – Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) crews inspected a section of bridge span over Middle River Friday, May 23, 2014. Damage done during the crash and ensuing fire has caused significant damage to part of the bridge.
Thursday’s deadly crash and fire caused extreme prolonged heat to the bridge span. The northbound lanes of Interstate 65 remained closed Friday as ALDOT crews surveyed the extent of damage caused by the fire.
“We have people from our state bridge bureau from Montgomery here, people from our maintenance bureau…people from the southeast region conducting those inspections,” ALDOT Director, John Cooper said in a Friday news conference.
From the water it was easy to spot the site of the accident. Charred concrete retaining walls and steel were an easy giveaway. The bridge is made from concrete and steel and both are susceptable to heat damage.
In this case there is obvious surface damage to the roadway, but the damage goes beyond that. The fire burned so intensely that the metal spans on the side of the bridge got so hot that some parts were warped.
“There was plastic in one of the vehicles. Plastic, when it burns, melts and moves as it burns and so we had some of that heat on the beam structure, the girder structure of the bridge and we’re evaluating now what those results are,” Cooper said.
While the bridge remains closed, traffic is being re-routed. Most of it is going through Spanish Fort and up Highway 31 or 225. It’s an inconvenience that a lot of holiday travelers like Terry Owens from Mississippi will have to endure this weekend.
“They had signs coming into Alabama from Mississippi also and then when I got on 65 they had signs saying, ‘detour’ but they had no detour signs once you detoured,” Owens said.
It’s an issue drivers will have to deal with at least until one lane is opened up as early as Sunday afternoon. ALDOT officials said that once holiday traffic clears out they will likely need to close both northbound lanes of I-65 back down for further repairs.