North I-75 bridge in Detroit remains closed until Friday
Detroit — The Interstate 75 northbound ramp at Interstate 375 here will remain closed for bridge work until at least late Friday, the Michigan Department of Transportation said in a Monday travel advisory, after it was shut Sunday morning to assess damage from a tanker fire.
The tanker blast occurred around 8:45 a.m. Sunday on a curved bridge that northbound I-75 travelers take over the Gratiot Avenue underpass. It initially caused an hours-long traffic jam along the freeway and now is prompting at least a five-day closure that will complicate this week's commute for tens of thousands of drivers from Downriver and Monroe County as well as in-state and out-of-state truck traffic that depends on the route.
"Sunday's tanker crash and fire damaged the ramp and barrier walls," the state transportation department said. "About 300 feet by 15 feet of damaged concrete will be replaced on the ramp and temporary concrete barriers will be placed along the shoulders of the ramp until repairs can be made to the barrier walls at a later date."
The bridge is expected to open "sometime late Friday, weather permitting," the agency said.
Drivers on northbound I-75 won't be able to take the bridge but will still have access to Gratiot — known as M-3 — and southbound I-375.
Southbound I-75 is not affected
The state agency is advising northbound I-75 drivers to manuever around the closure by taking the northbound Lodge Freeway, known as M-10, to the Davison Freeway or M-8 east to reconnect to I-75 north. Those who use the route to get to the east side of Detroit, the Grosse Pointes and Port Huron should take the northbound Lodge Freeway to Interstate 94 east.
MDOT spokeswoman Diane Cross said Sunday that state transportation officials would inspect the I-75 bridge for safety before allowing traffic over the curved span to resume.
The closure adds to traffic woes along the major freeway. MDOT has closed one lane in each direction along I-75 at the I-94 interchange as crews fix a crumbling concrete column there, which has caused delays during the morning and evening commutes.
The latest incident occurred around 8:45 a.m. Sunday when a tanker carrying 9,000 gallons of unleaded gasoline from Dearborn-based Nour Light Petroleum Transport overturned, sending huge plumes of smoke into the air at what is known as Stroh's Curve.
No one was injured in the blaze. The truck driver reported mechanical issues that caused the vehicle's back tires to lock up and the tanker to overturn, according to the Michigan State Police.
"He was able to escape the fire by running down the exit ramp," Michigan State Police Lt. Mike Shaw said Sunday. "It was a slow-starting fire that allowed him to escape."
Representatives for the company could not be reached for comment.
MDOT recommended these other routes for traffic heading out of downtown Detroit:
■I-96 west to I-94 east to M-10 north to M-8 to I-75 north
■I-94 west can connect to I-75 north; note I-94 east ramp is closed to I-75 north
■I-75 north at Mack Avenue
■U.S. 12 (Michigan Avenue) for east and west
■M-3 (Gratiot Ave) for northeast
A hazardous materials team was on the scene to try to prevent gasoline from draining into the sewer systems.
Curtrise Garner, a spokeswoman for the Detroit Water and Sewerage Department, noted that the water and sewerage systems are separate and that the incident had no impact on drinking water. The department did not receive any complaints from residents about a funny taste or smell, she said.
Garner said any gasoline that entered the sewers will be cleaned and treated.
"Our waste water treatment plant is equipped to handle all hazards," Garner said.
People near the interchange said they heard an explosion Sunday morning and called 911. Some people outside Comerica Park before the Detroit Tigers game heard the boom of the fuel-sparked blast.
The fire made traffic a headache for visitors heading downtown for the Sunday afternoon Tigers game against the Astros as well as other events like the Movement festival. Even Tigers pitcher David Price was caught up in the congestion.
"I'm on 75 headed south to Toledo now," he tweeted at 9:11 a.m.
"Keep going," responded John Malkoski, statistician for the Toledo Mud Hens baseball team, on Twitter. "We could use you on the mound tonight at 6."
Staff Writer Christine Ferretti contributed.