The Peytonsville exit of Interstate 65 must close in both directions until at least Monday so crews can demolish the overpass, which was heavily damaged early Friday when a fuel tanker slammed into its supports and exploded.
Northbound and southbound traffic will be routed up both exit ramps, then across Peytonsville Road and down the opposite on-ramps, Tennessee Department of Transportation spokeswoman Heather Jensen said.
“The northbound lanes are open right now, but they will be closed at 6 a.m. [Friday.] The southbound lanes are closed right now and will be closed for the weekend. The northern-most bridge will have to be demolished.”
Jensen said the southern-most bridge will be demolished at a later date. Reconstruction of the entire bridge could take about three months, but will depend on how soon TDOT can get the support beams in place.
Heavy traffic along Lewisburg Pike near the Carnton Plantation in Franklin was further hampered Friday afternoon in an unrelated wreck when a vehicle knocked down a telephone pole and electrical power lines stretched across the road, according to a tweet from the Franklin Police Department.
The “perfect storm of a horrible scenario” at the Goose Creek Bypass started about 3:40 a.m. when a southbound tanker truck slammed into the first of two overpass supports and exploded, killing the driver of the rig, said Sgt. Charles Warner, FPD spokesman.
The tanker, owned by Edwards Oil Co. of Lawrenceburg, Tenn., was carrying a full load of unleaded Shell gasoline and the subsequent explosion split the tank in half and disintegrated the cab in the ensuing firestorm, Warner said. The cab of the tanker came to rest just past the second bridge support half a football field away. The identity of the driver had not yet been disclosed late Friday afternoon.
The older bridge will be razed this weekend and repairs to the newer bridge will be made at a later date. Jensen said the newer bridge is safe to drive under for the time being, but unsafe to drive over.
The lanes will be re-opened on Monday in time for the afternoon rush hour and Jensen said electronic message boards will be situated along the route to alert motorists well before they reach the vicinity.
“For through traffic, we’re asking they take 840 to avoid the bridge altogether,” she said. “Other traffic can come I-65, but they’ll have to get off at the Peytonsville exit and get back on 65 again.
“This is going to create a lot of delays,” Jensen said. “If they must go I-65, they can still get through, but we encourage drivers to go another way.”
FPD spokesman Warner said the scene of the 3:40 a.m. crash was “one of the worst scenes we’ve had in years.”
An official of Edwards Oil told authorities only one person should have been in the truck at the time.
Warner said the fire from the explosion was so hot that the asphalt was partially melted. Fire crews and other emergency responders remained on the scene as crews worked to remove hazardous material from the gas spill.
Northbound traffic was backed up several miles to SR-840 during the heaviest hours of the morning commute and southbound weekend traffic was bumper-to-bumper headed toward Alabama.
Vehicles headed north were diverted west to Lewisburg Pike (State Route 431) and some chose to drive father west to Columbia Pike (SR-31). Southbound traffic from SR-96 in Franklin was sent to Royal Oaks Boulevard, then to SR-431 and on southward to SR-840, where it could resume travel on I-65.
Home page asst. managing editor Allison Maloney contributed to this report.