DENVER — The massive fire that caused a portion of an elevated I-85 to collapse in Atlanta Thursday is not the first time flames have heavily damaged an overpass or bridge.
A tanker truck accident in April of 2007 caused a freeway overpass near downtown Oakland to collapse. A truck was carrying 8,600 gallons of gasoline. Only the driver of the tanker truck was injured.
In 1985 two trains collided outside of Denver sparking a fire that caused an overpass between Denver and Boulder to collapse. No drivers were injured, but three workers on the trains died.
In 2014, a tanker truck crashed and caught fire on an underpass outside Nashville, Tennessee. Fire damaged two bridges above the truck and highway crews made the decision to demolish both out of fear they would collapse.
“Any state with a bridge is at risk for this type of incident,” said Colorado Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Joshua Laipply. “Bridges aren’t built to withstand a fire that occurs.”
The American Association of State Highway Transportation Officials sets federal requirements for highway engineering and construction but doesn’t have requirements for bridges and fires.
Tunnels are required to protect drivers if a fire burns and driver cannot easily escape, Federal Highway Administration spokesman Dug Hecox said.
Laipply confirmed there aren’t fire standards for overpasses either.
“There are no design (standards) for fires. Part of that is there are such a wide variety of materials and temperatures and scenarios that can happen,” Laipply said.
The section of the collapsed highway in Atlanta is closed indefinitely.