NEW YORK (CBSNewYork) — Inspectors were checking the Ed Koch Queensboro Bridge on Friday night for structural damage following a huge truck fire earlier in the morning that left part of the bridge closed until at least Sunday.
A 40-foot tractor trailer, which was carrying wooden, plastic and metal clothes hangers, burst into flames on the outbound lower level of the bridge around 11 a.m. The fire was extinguished about an hour later, police said.
Three men in the truck got out safely, and no injuries were reported, police said.
However, gridlock quickly set in and sparked anger and frustration among drivers.
“The worst part is everyone is honking horns. That’s the worst part,” Randy Hampson told CBS 2’s Dave Carlin.
The fire shut down traffic in both directions for several hours Friday. The outbound outer roadway reopened at around 5 p.m., but motorists leaving Manhattan were initially facing two-hour delays.
Around 6 p.m., there was bumper-to-bumper traffic for miles on First, Second and Third avenues, as well as on the Robert F. Kennedy Bridge and on the approach to the Queens-Midtown Tunnel. The gridlock was so bad that several buses were seen abandoned by passengers on Second Avenue near East 58th Street.
As of 10:35 p.m. the lower level outer roadway was opened. The right lane of the outbound inner roadway was open, the outbound upper roadway was closed, the inbound upper roadway was open, and the inbound lower roadway was open but was being used for Queens-bound traffic.
Some of the electrical cables that stretch along the side of the bridge also caught fire, and the blaze left a part of the span charred, 1010 WINS reported.
Inspectors were at the scene checking the stability of two I-beams that support the upper roadway. The beams were slightly out of line as a result of the fire, 1010 WINS’ Carol D’Auria reported. Inspectors determined that the beams needed to be replaced and that some lanes would remain closed through the weekend.
“Our inspection determined that a floor beam was affected and needs to be repaired,” Department of Transportation spokesman Scott Gastel said Friday. “Immediate repair work will occur through the weekend with expected completion by Sunday morning.
“In the meantime, traffic in both directions will remain open using the span’s westbound roadways (upper level will be Manhattan-bound and lower level will be Queens-bound). Once this repair is complete, all but one lane of the Queens-bound roadway can reopen. The final lane (on the upper roadway) will reopen once all repair work is done,” Gastel added.
The truck had been fully engulfed in flames and sent thick black smoke into the sky, D’Auria reported. It was towed to the Queens side Friday afternoon.
Some trucks, buses and cars couldn’t get around the burning vehicle and became stranded on the bridge for hours.
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One taxi driver told D’Auria his passenger got out of the cab and walked back to Manhattan to try to find another way to get to LaGuardia Airport to catch her flight.
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