Travel on Interstate 93 in Medford, Massachusetts, was restored to fully capacity Thursday as crews wrapped up emergency repairs on an overpass badly damaged by an oversized truck earlier this week, officials said.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation said Thursday afternoon that all four lanes on the highway were restored following days of work after an over-height truck slammed into the Roosevelt Circle Overpass Monday.
All travel lanes on the eastbound overpass reopened around 11 a.m. Friday, Highway administrator Jonathan Gulliver said. He warned, however, that he expected travel to be restricted on the overpass for several months.
"It is a huge relief," Gulliver said earlier Thursday of the lanes' expected reopening. "This is not something that we want to see happen to any of our bridges."
He added that the Department of Transportation expects to conduct nighttime work over the next few weeks that could cause lanes to be closed, but said the "lion's share" of the closures on I-93 were over.
Two southbound lanes on I-93 re-opened Thursday morning after closing completely overnight as crews work to repair the overpass. Only the right lane and breakdown lane were open during rush hour, causing traffic to move at a glacial pace.
All southbound traffic on the highway was stopped at 10 p.m. Wednesday night. Also Wednesday night at 9 p.m., two lanes on the northbound side of I-93 closed, according to transportation officials. They were reopened around 5 a.m. Thursday as well.
Gulliver said crews worked overnight to remove the damaged portion of the overpass to make sure it was safe travel on the highway below.
Contractors have removed most of the damaged material from the overpass and will clear the roadway beneath in order to restore traffic on I-93, he added.
"The biggest problem that we have run into on this bridge is stabilizing the damaged portion of the bridge," he said. "The bridge was extensively damaged... and required that we put in shoring towers and then relieve a lot of the tension in the existing beams, so that as we demolished the bridge, it wasn't causing further damage to the existing structure.
The plan was initially to reopen all southbound lanes on I-93 southbound Wednesday until crews found "very, very extensive damage" to the overpass.
"We had a number of setbacks last night. As we started getting into the bridge, we found additional damage," Gulliver said Wednesday morning. "This is very, very extensive damage. This is the worst we’ve seen."
The bridge crash caused miles of traffic during the subsequent commute.
The Massachusetts Department of Transportation has been urging drivers to avoid I-93 southbound and to expect traffic delays on Route 1 south, Route 16, Route 28 and through Roosevelt Circle for the next "several months" while crews make permanent repairs.
Massachusetts State Police are still investigating the crash, which involved a 2013 Peterbilt 367 with an Alabama registration, owned by Dove Transportation of Lincoln, Alabama.
A 57-year-old Alabama man was driving the truck with a 54-year-old Alabama woman as a passenger, who was taken to Massachusetts General Hospital with possible minor injuries.
State police said Tuesday that the driver is being cited for operating a vehicle that was "over height" and for violating a permit issued by the Department of Transportation. Each offense carries a fine of $105, for a total of $210.
The height of the truck with its load -- a water clarifying tank used in wastewater treatment -- measured at 14 feet, 9 inches, which is 9 inches more than the truck was permitted for. Additionally, state police said the driver violated the permit for not having flag cars and for traveling on an unapproved route. I-93 was not on the truck's permitted route. MassDOT said Dove had permits for a smaller load on a different route.
The tractor-trailer -- with an "oversize load" banner and two orange flags -- was carrying a large metal piece of equipment, which had to be extricated from underneath the overpass. The structure was significantly damaged in the crash, police said, which happened around 3:20 p.m.
MassDOT officials said they are working with state police and intend to hold the trucking company legally and financially responsible for damages. The investigation will determine if the operator or company were in violation of any state laws or federal motor carrier regulations, police said.
Jamie Canada, of Dove Transportation, said she and her husband, who runs the company, spoke with the driver but do not know how the crash happened. They are waiting for the results of the investigation and said the truck was carrying an empty clarifier tank.
An inspection Monday evening found extensive damage to an outside beam on the Roosevelt Circle Overpass over the right two I-93 southbound travel lanes. The beam will need to be removed to safely allow traffic to be fully restored underneath on I-93 southbound, the Massachusetts Department of Transportation said.
"Usually bridge strikes, the bridge is usually the winner when something hits it," MassDOT highway administrator Jonathan Gulliver said.
But this time, the bridge was the loser, according to Gulliver.
"The Roosevelt Circle, on top of the bridge, is going to have a lane restriction in place for some period of time. We're going to be removing somewhere between three and five feet of concrete so there's going to be lane restrictions in place," Gulliver said. "That's likely going to be months before we can get a design done where we can go in and do a full repair and open up Roosevelt Circle back up to its full capacity."
A beam was flatted, snapped into two. And the concrete above it was destroyed. The entire beam and a section of bridge deck, approximately seven feet wide, will need to be demolished between the west abutment and the center pier, which is located above I-93 southbound lanes of travel.
The damage came as no surprise to those who heard the crash. Rick Sacco, who lives nearby, heard it from inside his home.
"Something is going on," Sacco said. "I was sitting down watching TV and I heard what sounded like a sonic boom, like a bang. I thought something exploded then I heard a weird scrapping sound and I knew something was going on.”
MassDOT deployed message boards on I-93 southbound for drivers approaching the Medford work zone as far away as the New Hampshire border and also on Interstate 495 and on Interstate 95/Route 128.
The highway was expected to fully reopen its four lanes by Wednesday, but Roosevelt Circle will be restricted for the next few months. For Jeff Klossner, rush hour will be right outside his front door for months as bridge reconstruction on I-93 south reroutes traffic past his home.
"Obviously not excited," said Klossner, who lives along Roosevelt Circle in Medford. "This is going to be our new normal for the next coming weeks or months."
Klossner said traffic Tuesday was backed up way more than normal.