Lane closings were expected to persist today at the scenes of a truck collision and an electrical fire early Wednesday morning that disrupted traffic at two busy Toledo locations.
Traffic was snarled all day on northbound I-75 in North Toledo after two tractor-trailers collided at the Ottawa River Road exit, causing a fuel spill that ignited and damaged the freeway’s pavement.
And downtown, motorists were detoured around the Summit and Cherry street intersection until the evening rush hour because of a fire and explosion in an underground Toledo Edison vault.
While no one was injured in the 12:16 a.m. truck collision, northbound I-75 was closed until late morning, and after that only the left lane was reopened while about 150 yards of the freeway’s center lane were repaved.
Overall, between 500 and 600 feet of the freeway were damaged by the fuel spill, said Layth Istefan, the highway management administrator at the Ohio Department of Transportation’s district office in Bowling Green.
At midafternoon, I-75 traffic backed up about 5 miles to the I-475 junction in central Toledo, and ODOT urged motorists to use northbound U.S. 23 as an alternate route to Michigan.
ODOT said late last night that two lanes of traffic were open on northbound I-75 between I-280 and Alexis Road.
Through Friday, expect single-lane restrictions in this area because of pavement damage from the accident.
The worst damage, Mr. Istefan explained, occurred where the spilled diesel fuel from one of the trucks didn’t burn, because it seeped into the pavement’s asphalt, which also is a petroleum product.
“It actually changed the chemical composition of the asphalt,” Mr. Istefan said, with some of that penetration going “as deep as the concrete base” beneath the asphalt.
Repairs required repaving several layers, he said.
Heat from the fire melted some of the pavement and scorched it in other places, but that damage didn’t go as deep, Mr. Istefan said.
ODOT hopes to have all repair work done by Friday, he said.
Details about the truck collision’s cause were not available from Toledo police late Wednesday.
The trouble at Summit and Cherry began shortly after 12:45 a.m., when an underground cable “failed, causing an underground fire” which led to several explosions that blew manhole covers out of the street, according to a Toledo Edison statement.
Traffic was blocked for 14 hours while Edison crews secured the scene, ventilated the area, and isolated the damaged area before repairs could start.
Closing Summit and Cherry also closed the Martin Luther King, Jr., Bridge, which feeds directly into that intersection near the Maumee River’s downtown Toledo bank. Cross-river motorists were directed to the Craig Memorial and Anthony Wayne bridges until the intersection’s 4 p.m. reopening.
Cherry’s eastbound right lane remained closed approaching Summit, as was the right-turn lane from Cherry to southbound Summit.
One of two left-turn lanes stayed closed on both northbound Summit and westbound Cherry while FirstEnergy crews continued their work.
“We’ll be working on making permanent repairs over the next several days,” utility spokesman Mark Durbin said Wednesday evening, noting that underground repairs are “just tricky” because of difficulty identifying trouble spots and then stringing new wire.
The repairs were not urgent enough, however, to keep Toledo Edison crews working on them around the clock, although the lane closings remained in place after the company’s trucks had all left the area by early evening.
Several similar underground electrical fires have occurred in recent years in downtown Toledo.
A December, 2011, cable failure blew several manhole covers into the air near Jefferson Avenue and 10th Street, while a failed cable sparked a fire that shot flames through manhole covers and blew one cover into the air in the 800 block of Madison Avenue in April, 2007.
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