Colorado DOT, Partners Make Urgent Repairs to Restore Fire-Damaged Highway
DENVER, CO When a fuel truck fire closed part of heavily traveled Interstate 25 in Denver, Colorado, and damaged lanes in both directions, the Colorado Department of Transportation and a number of partners sprang into action to repair the highway enough to reopen it before the next morning's rush hour.
A series of CDOT press releases told part of the story, and a report by the Denver Business Journal helped tell the rest - showing the major effort required to do the job in such a short time.
First, CDOT said, when the fuel tanker caught fire at midday on northbound I-25 near Orchard, two CDOT employees who were working nearby helped the tanker driver to safety. "Crews then closed the interstate from Dry Creek to Belleview to protect motorists, and to allow South Metro Fire Department to extinguish the flames."
That was just the beginning, however, because "once crews extinguished the fire, they determined that the asphalt reached at least 450 degrees, which ultimately damaged the asphalt at the scene." The fuel and fire had spread past concrete barriers into the southbound lanes as well, leaving pavement damaged in both directions.
CDOT Executive Director Shailen Bhatt told the Business Journal he had been at lunch when alerts sounded on his phone and those of companions, and they returned to department headquarters in Denver to set up a command center for the incident.
The news report said it took until about 6 p.m. before firefighters were able to pull the burned truck from the site. CDOT said that after hazardous materials workers cleaned the roadway, CDOT crews began milling the southbound pavement to evaluate the damage.
"I am extremely proud of the quick response from Team CDOT, the Greenwood Village Police Department and the South Metro Fire Department," said Bhatt. "The damage to the roadway could have been much worse if all of these different agencies hadn't come together to respond to the incident."
CDOT said its crews evaluated southbound I-25 between Dry Creek and Belleview shortly after the evening rush hour and determined that a maximum of three inches of asphalt depth was damaged in the left two lanes. After milling the road, crews then began paving and striping, and were able to open all lanes southbound around midnight.
But northbound I-25 lanes sustained more damage "and required a significant amount of cleanup," the department said. Asphalt was damaged down to four inches on the highway shoulder and three inches in lanes to the right of the median. So northbound lanes were closed overnight to allow for emergency repairs.
The newspaper story said contractors who were nearby working on a CDOT project to rebuild an I-25 interchange "were in position to help" and already had asphalt on hand for that project. Workers from one company helped mill out the damaged roadway section, it said, while another assisted with traffic control.
The overnight work took 170 tons of asphalt, one contractor told the Business Journal.
CDOT later said most of its crew members at the scene worked more than 12 hours, and were able to get the northbound lanes open by 5 a.m. for the morning traffic rush.
The department said more repairs would be required "as crews must replace the center median, which was temporarily repaired," and probably to reinforce the asphalt repair on a high-volume road that carries about 260,000 vehicles a day. But it said any repaving closures would be at night so that travelers "experience minimal impacts."
The newspaper said the department's CEO was up past midnight, and up again at 3:30 to monitor the highway's reopening.
That morning, Bhatt also joined Gov. John Hickenlooper as the governor signed legislation to allow driverless cars in Colorado, and the news story said Hickenlooper praised the CDOT chief and the work of that department and others in handling the emergency.
Bhatt, said the Business Journal, "marveled" at how well all the crews and different aspects of the emergency work came together. "I've never had anything go this smoothly," he said, and credited the success to the team's sense of urgency.