Part of Burned San Francisco Highway to Re-Open

EMERYVILLE-After being engulfed in flames and causing a major traffic headache, a piece of the I-880 intersection near San Francisco could open up soon.There is light at the end of the tunnel- or the interstate, in this case. After a fuel tanker exploded and burned a major San Francisco intersection, one major piece could re-open within 7 to 10 days, according to construction officials.

I-880, which provides a major artery from San Francisco to San Jose, had a connector portion burned along with connectors of 580 and 80 (see here) when the driver of a fuel tanker carrying 8,600 gallons of fuel crashed into a guardrail. Although the 80 and 580 connectors burned down, the 880 portion didn’t suffer as much structural damage. Caltrans ran several tests and discovered that the core of the concrete is still strong.

Although tests on the I-880 connector could be a sign of hope, tests conducted on the other two connectors didn’t fair so well. Tom Pyle, a specialist working for Caltrans, offered a bleak description of the damage done to 580 and 80 from the extreme heat of the fuel truck.

“I’ve never seen concrete heated to a temperature that changed its color,” he said, noting that portions of the concrete turned pink like a salmon, meaning they were subjected to temperatures in excess of 550 degrees for extended periods. “I’ve read about it, I’ve heard about it, but I’ve never seen it. I was very surprised that the concrete fared as well as it did.”

According to Will Kempton, head of Caltrans, the 880 portion will cost up to $8 million. The total repair for the entire damaged area will cost $14.9 million but could actually run up to $30 million if completed ahead of schedule by the contractors ( CC Meyer, Inc.).

The Federal government is also chipping in with cash. They are granting money to alleviate costs associated with reopening the highway connectors once the repairs are completed. Right now, California Government is trying to get the White House to approve a $2.5 million grant to alleviate costs for free public transportation that is being provided by the Bay Area for commuters.

Despite all the destruction, no one died in the accident and the driver managed to escape with only 2nd degree burns.The last time the Bay Area suffered highway damage didn’t come off as easily. 12 people died in 1989 as an 7.1 magnitude earthquake rippled across the city. A section of the San Francisco-Oakland double-decker bridge collapsed and killed 6 of the 12 people. Interstate 280 was damaged so bad that pieces of the freeway slammed into each other.

Sources: San Francisco Chronicle (

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