Update by Michael Roberts: The Colorado Department of Transportation reopened northbound Interstate 25 near the Dry Creek exit prior to 5 a.m. today, June 1, in the wake of a massive tanker explosion that closed the highway for well over twelve hours. Southbound I-25 at Belleview reopened around midnight.
Our previous coverage is below.
According to CDOT, a pair of employees at the department helped the driver of the truck escape the flaming vehicle while other staffers closed the interstate in both directions — and for good reason. The asphalt near the blaze is believed to have reached at least 450 degrees, causing damage to the roadway.
After the blaze was extinguished and the route was cleansed of toxic chemicals and fuels, CDOT crews began milling the bad spots in the pavement.
In a statement, CDOT executive director Shailen Bhatt said, "I am extremely proud of the quick response from Team CDOT, the Greenwood Village Police Department and the South Metro Fire Department. 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."
In the end, two inches of asphalt in the left two lanes of southbound I-25 were milled. Once that was done, crews paved and striped the southbound lanes and reopened the route as May bled into June.
The problems on northbound I-25 were worse; four inches of asphalt on the shoulder and three inches of asphalt in the lanes to the right of the median were impacted. But crews have now re-paved the lanes and are finishing the sweep-up at this writing.
"Crews are working diligently on the northbound lanes, and we are optimistic that all lanes will be open by 5 a.m.," Bhatt noted — and she turned out to be right.
Even though the interstate has reopened in both directions, the work isn't finished. More repairs are expected over the next few weeks, with a focus on replacing the temporarily repaired center median. In addition, the repaired asphalt will have to be reinforced because of heavy use. Around 260,000 vehicles per day travel these routes.
The subsequent paving closures will be scheduled at night, in an effort to prevent the gargantuan problems metro-area commuters have experienced since yesterday afternoon. Continue for our earlier reports.
UPDATE, 3:25 p.m., May 31: CDOT suspects all lanes of traffic will be open by Thursday, June 1. Investigators have yet to determine the cause of the fire. Lanes four and five southbound are open.
RTD says light-rail lines E, F and R have resumed. Delays are expected for the next hour until service is able to meet up with the regular schedule. Bus shuttles are being discontinued.
Around 200,000 to 250,000 travelers use that stretch of highway every day, according to CDOT.
A diesel tanker that erupted into flames on Interstate 25 near Orchard Road has closed the highway indefinitely, as well as the light rail along the route. The driver of the tanker was the only person injured, according to Greenwood Village's official Twitter account, which has been working with South Metro Fire Rescue to control and provide information about the situation. The driver was transported to the hospital.
A plan will be released to direct traffic around the fire. E-470 is waiving tolls to accommodate drivers who are looking for a detour.
"There are epic back-ups on I-25 north and south of the fire scene," wrote CDOT in a statement.
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As of about 2:30, the fire had been put out. "Our challenge: 500 gallons of Diesel + 500 gallons of eight different oil types," tweeted South Metro Fire Rescue.
CDOT says it is "assessing pavement damage as fire retardant chemicals are being cleaned up and mobilizing crews, equipment and material to make emergency pavement repairs."
The Regional Transportation District (RTD) E, F and R light rail service is currently shut down between Southmoor and Dry Creek stations due to a fire on Interstate 25 near Orchard Road. At this time, it is not known when rail service will be restored.
Bus shuttles will operate between Southmoor and Dry Creek stations in both directions. Please expect major delays, use alternate transportation and avoid the area if possible.
RTD cannot confirm whether or not there has been damage to the rail system.
For information and updates please visit rtd-denver.com or sign up for rider alerts at rtd-denver.com/rideralerts.