A collapsed overpass covered southbound lanes of Interstate 75 with hundreds of tons of concrete and steel Tuesday, following a construction accident that killed a worker and injured a truck driver.
The Ohio Department of Transportation said the busy artery through downtown Cincinnati will be closed at least two to three days.
“The debris needs to be removed and we have to determine if there is damage to the pavement,” spokeswoman Sharon Smigielski said. “The cause is still under investigation.”
Work was going on Monday night to remove an overhead exit ramp that had recently been replaced by a new one when it pancaked down at about 10:30 p.m. on top of southbound lanes some five miles north of the Ohio River.
“Something happened and it collapsed,” she said.
A tractor-trailer driver suffered minor injuries when his rig ran into the collapsed section; Cincinnati’s police chief says the driver probably was seconds away from serious harm. His and the construction worker’s names weren’t immediately released.
The ramp had been a left-hand exit from northbound 75 that carried traffic over the southbound lanes to Hopple Street. The new ramp exits to the right from northbound 75 near the University of Cincinnati.
Commuters to downtown Tuesday morning were diverted to Interstate 71 south, where traffic slowed through the morning, while motorists headed to Kentucky could take the Interstate 275 loop around the city.
The ramp replacement is part of a yearslong project to increase capacity and safety on a congested, accident-prone section of the interstate. Nighttime closures of northbound I-75 for work had been planned for this week, but ODOT officials said that schedule could be changed.
Cincinnati Police Chief Jeff Blackwell said late Monday that something went “terribly wrong.”
The truck driver was taken to the University of Cincinnati Medical Center with minor injuries.
“The big-rig driver is very lucky; in a matter of seconds his fate would have probably been different,” Blackwell said.
A nearby resident said the collapse rattled his house.
“Just heard a thud, and the house shook,” Casey Wright told WLWT-TV. “It felt like an earthquake. I’m sure the whole neighborhood felt it.”
The Cincinnati Fire Department said the worker’s body was removed early Tuesday, after airbags were used to lift the wreckage.
The collapse also caused buses that use I-75 and nearby streets to be rerouted.
A witness told WLWT-TV that he heard “a real big boom” and then a couple of seconds later he saw police cars rushing to the scene.