MONTGOMERY — An overpass and a section of Interstate 85 South in Montgomery is closed after an 18-wheeler carrying lumber ran head-on into a bridge column and caught on fire on Tuesday morning. 

According to a Montgomery Fire Rescue spokesperson, three passenger vehicles were also involved in the collision under the Perry Street overpass. Four patients were treated and transported from the scene to local hospitals for non-life-threatening injuries.

Montgomerybridge1 Alabama News
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The portion of I-85 South that will remain closed is from Union Street to Court Street until repairs are made.

"This traffic collision will definitely affect the traffic flow," Montgomery Police Chief Darryl Albert said at a press conference on Tuesday afternoon.

Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) officials were examining the full extent of damage to the bridge after the crash on Tuesday. 

"Right now, our focus is on repairing the bridge. We do have contractors on site to begin emergency repairs as identified as we finalize permanent plans for repairs. South Perry Street Bridge is closed completely to all pedestrian and vehicle traffic until final repairs can be made," Brantley Kirk, an ALDOT public information officer, told reporters on Tuesday. "Our main goal obviously is to have a safe bridge but also to open up I-85 to traffic, even if it is just a couple of lanes. The cap and the column are bent. That's been pretty evident in some pictures, so emergency repairs would be to make sure that the bridge is safe so that traffic can be underneath the South Perry Street (bridge) and also make it to where people can get out there, and crews can make those permanent repairs but we can't do that until we have a full assessment which is what we're doing now. 

Kirk said, "The plan is to open it up as soon as possible so that they can make repairs to the bridge during maybe a lane closure instead of having a full closure. Nothing can be finalized until that assessment is complete. We will not open up a bridge or the road at all until it is deemed safe for all users." 

Ford Boswell, a spokesman for the Alabama Trucking Association, told 1819 News, "It's hard to predict the costs exactly, but with large commercial vehicle traffic already being diverted to Montgomery's Eastern Boulevard, for some truckers delivery distances and times will surely increase." 

"I can only assume that will increase operation costs slightly for those affected. For now, we ask truckers and dispatch teams to check routes before starting a trip to the affected area. ALDOT officials said they are still accessing the scene, and with the significant damage to the bridge, more detours and closures are possible," Boswell said. "Also, with the holiday weekend upon us and several marquee events planned for the area, such as the Alabama State University/Southern U football game on Saturday afternoon, we certainly expect delays and congestion. We advise the public to avoid the area if possible and ask everyone to drive carefully and be mindful of all appropriate safety precautions."

According to ALDOT, passenger vehicles traveling I-85 South will now use Exit 1, South Union Street, and stay on South Street until they can re-enter I-85 South at the Exit 1 entrance ramp. All traffic signals on South Street are flashing for free-flowing movement of South Street while the side streets are closed to through traffic. Motorists using the South Street detour are advised to stay in the center lane. Truck traffic will continue to exit I-85 South at Exit 6, Eastern Boulevard. Southbound traffic for Mobile should take a left towards South Boulevard, and northbound traffic to Birmingham should take a right towards Northern Boulevard. This detour will remain in place until ALDOT can safely reopen lanes on I-85. Motorists are advised to seek alternate routes and prepare for significant delays.

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