Southbound I-75 reopens

The Interstate 75 overpass destroyed by a tanker truck explosion and fire on June 4 reopened at about 5:30 p.m. and the first wave of traffic crossed the bridge almost a month earlier than expected.

The work was originally expected to take six weeks, but crews have been working almost around the clock for almost two weeks to rebuild the overpass at U.S. 301.

While the work was being done, southbound traffic on the interstate has moved on two temporary lanes on the northbound side of I-75.

Repairs to the northbound bridge's columns are expected to be completed by Tuesday, according to FDOT.

The northbound lanes are expected to be returned to their normal configuration by 6 a.m. Monday.

The two northbound and two southbound lanes on U.S. 301, and the U.S. 301-to-I-75 southbound ramp are expected to open by Tuesday night, according to FDOT.

While Zep Construction Inc. of Fort Myers, the low bidder for the reconstruction work, is expected to complete the repairs three weeks ahead of FDOT's original timetable, a spokeswoman stressed that the No. 1 priority is the safety of the overpass and she insisted the quality of the work being completed will not be compromised.

The crash occurred when the driver of a tanker full of fuel tried to steer clear of a pickup truck that had fishtailed on the overpass. The tanker hit another vehicle, then went over the bridge's wall and exploded on U.S. 301.

The driver of the pickup, Fernando Aguilera-Chavez, 28, of Bradenton was cited for careless driving, according to Florida Highway Patrol. The tanker driver, Raymond Neumann, 54, of Brooksville, died from his injuries.

FDOT expects the contract will likely exceed the $1.7 million estimated construction cost, according to spokeswoman Cindy Clemmons-Adente.