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PennDOT: Fire damage to close I-81 through weekend - abc27 WHTM

PennDOT: Fire damage to close I-81 through weekend

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HARRISBURG, Pa. (WHTM) -

Interstate 81 and one of two overhead bridges damaged by a massive tanker fire will remain closed through the weekend, and a second ramp could remain closed for 2-3 months.

The intense heat caused by the overturned tanker truck severely damaged the concrete deck and the steel beams of the bridge above the crash site, which carries eastbound Route 22/322 over the interstate and into the city, according to PennDOT.

PennDOT Secretary Barry Schoch said Interstate 81 in the vicinity would remain closed through Sunday or Monday while the unstable bridge spans are removed and replaced, and perhaps even longer because of inclement weather in the forecast.

Interstate 81 will remain closed northbound from Route 581 and southbound from the I-83 split until the repairs are completed so that there is no danger to motorists traveling under the bridge.

Damage to the bridge where the crash occurred - the structure that carries I-81 northbound to Route 22/322 westbound - has not yet been determined, but Schoch said the repairs could take at least two months.

Schoch said in order to alleviate traffic congestion in the Harrisburg area, the Pennsylvania Turnpike will waive tolls between the Harrisburg East and Carlisle interchanges.

The toll-free passage is only effective if you are driving from the Harrisburg East interchange to the Carlisle interchange or visa versa. You will be charged the toll if you get off at any other exits. 

Governor Tom Corbett said the damage caused by the fire is expected to cost tens of millions of dollars. He said the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency is preparing a disaster declaration to request federal aid, which would also allow PennDOT to expedite repairs.

State police said the crash occurred at 6:10 a.m. when the tanker, fully loaded with diesel fuel, overturned and caught fire.

The driver, 52-year-old Thomas Uecker, of Dover, was able to escape the truck with minor burns. He was taken to Harrisburg Hospital, Hicks said.

The truck was coming from Carlisle and is registered to Tameric Enterprises LLC, Hicks said. No other vehicles or people were involved.

The crash is still under investigation.

The tanker was on fire for about 45 minutes and burned so intensely that it melted guide rails and caused the concrete road surface to explode, officials said.

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