DENVER (CBS4) – Inches of asphalt were charred on both the northbound and southbound lanes of Interstate 25 in the Denver Tech Center on Wednesday night after a truck exploded.
Crews with the Colorado Department of Transportation worked through the night into Thursday morning to make repairs and reopen those lanes.
The incident took place just before noon, north of the Orchard Road exit on I-25. More than 200,000 daily commuters were diverted around the scene.
PHOTO GALLERY: I-25 Tanker Fire
“I just heard a big boom and didn’t know what was happening,” said Alex Cossofs, a witness.
Those who work in the Denver Tech Center described a plume of thick, black smoke, which was visible miles away from the crash.
“[The smoke] was deep, and black,” said Shelby Hill, a Denver Tech Center worker. “It was big and billowing.”
“I just saw this huge truck that had just exploded. Billows of smoke, with a lot of flames,” Cossofs said.
As crews worked to extinguish the flames, traffic was diverted from I-25 to side roads. All 10 lanes in both directions were closed for several hours on Wednesday. In time for the evening commute, three southbound lanes were reopened.
“The traffic was stopped. The cars were not moving at all,” Hill said.
The preliminary cause is a blown tire on the semi but no official cause has been released. It is unknown where the truck was traveling to or from.
Realtor Penny Radulovich told CBS4’s Dillon Thomas she was on her way to help close a deal, when the traffic started congesting through the metro area.
“I took the back roads, thinking it would be better. But, everybody got off I-25,” Radulovich said. “One hour and a half later, I arrived with all the closing documents everyone was waiting for.”
The congestion even plugged roads through Parker and Aurora.
In order to help keep traffic moving, CDOT reached an agreement with E-470 to waive all tolls for drivers during the closure and repairs. Those tolls would be waived until I-25 is completely reopened.
“That is the cost we pay is traffic. Our roads were never meant for this many people,” Radulovich said.
The damage went about three inches deep in the southbound lanes. CDOT worked to reopen those lanes my midnight.
The damage in the northbound lanes remained unknown at 10 p.m. Wednesday. The full closure was expected to be in place for several more hours.
The toxic mixture of chemicals, foam and water pooling in the northbound lanes will be removed before repairs can be made. The best case scenario is that all five lanes will reopen by the morning rush. The worst case is that two lanes will be open by Thursday morning.
Dillon Thomas is a reporter at CBS4 and a Colorado native. He believes everyone has a story, and would love to share yours! You can find more of his stories by following him on Twitter, @DillonMThomas.