Photo courtesy of TDOT
Tanker collision on I-65 in Tennessee killed the driver of the truck and melted beams on two overpass bridges, causing one to be demolished and severely damaging the other.

Construction is underway on a replacement span over Interstate 65, near Franklin, Tenn., after a severe fire from a tanker-truck collision early on Aug. 15 destroyed a pair of bridges.

With about 62,000 vehicles daily on I-65 and 11,000 on the state Route 248 crossing, traffic in that area shut down for several hours until the fire could be extinguished and the roadway repaired so that I-65 northbound travel could resume. Southbound traffic did not resume until Aug. 18, after a two-lane bridge was declared unstable and demolished. East-west traffic is still shut off, pending construction of the new bridge.

The existing steel-reinforced concrete bridge got so hot from the fire, "the steel inside the concrete became unattached to the concrete," Paul Degges, the Tennessee Dept. of Transportation's deputy commissioner and chief engineer, said at a news conference.

"It's not safe to carry a vehicle load, and we are concerned that we can't really calculate if it can stand up on its own," he said. Demo crews took it down on Aug. 17.

The other bridge, which is constructed of steel beams with a concrete deck, is phase one of a pair of new bridges crossing the interstate; just south of the old bridge, it was due to open to traffic later this year.

"The fire deformed all those beams so [the bridge] is not usable for traffic anymore," Degges said. However, it is not at risk of collapse, so it will remain standing until its mate can be constructed.

"We have steel already fabricated for the second half" of the pair but must build new abutments and piers, Degges said.

Those beams are now scheduled for setting on Oct. 3-5, and concrete work will follow. TDOT expects to open it to traffic by Nov. 27.

The new bridges will be 278 ft long and 72 ft wide, with three travel lanes, two left-turn lanes, a shoulder and a sidewalk.

They are part of a $46.1-million, 4.1-mile project to widen I-65 between state Route 248—the site of the fire—and state Route 840. The job was scheduled for completion in June 2016, but TDOT officials don't know yet if the additional work will change the deadline.

TDOT officials are working with the contractors—LoJac Enterprises Inc., Lebanon, Tenn., and Brown Builders Inc., Springfield, Tenn.—to assess damages, determine what can be salvaged and estimate costs.

It is likely that work can start in spring 2015, TDOT said in a statement.

The driver, who was killed, was Bobby Ray, 67, of Columbia, Tenn., a 40-year veteran of the Edwards Oil Co. Ray regularly drove that late-night route and was preparing to retire.