Two lanes of eastbound Interstate 435 that were closed overnight because of a fiery wreck in a construction zone reopened shortly before Tuesday morning’s rush hour.
Traffic was being diverted to the north side of the construction barrier. The lanes south of the barrier remained closed while crews continued to clean up debris. The ramp to Antioch Road also remained closed.
The two lanes reopened about 5:30 a.m. Tuesday. The ramp from southbound U.S. 69 to eastbound I-435 also is reopened.
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Five vehicles were involved in a rush-hour wreck Monday that started with a rear-end crash in a “treacherous” construction zone on eastbound Interstate 435 near U.S. 69 in Overland Park. Four vehicles erupted into flames and engulfed the highway in smoke that could be seen for miles.
Two people were taken to hospitals, one with critical burns. The other was in good condition, said Jason Rhodes, a spokesman for the Overland Park Fire Department.
The crash was at 5:19 p.m. The cause of the wreck — even the order of the vehicles that were struck — was under investigation, but police said it was a rear-end accident. It was not clear which vehicle was in the rear of the crash. The vehicles included a tractor trailer and at least two passenger cars. One car was turned around and ended up facing west.
“It’s a pretty treacherous part of the interstate right now because of all the construction,” Rhodes said. “We’ve got a lot of Jersey barriers and a lot of lanes kind of segregated, if you will. Narrow spaces.”
The crash closed both directions of the highway for two hours before westbound lanes reopened shortly before 7:30 p.m.
Crews were still working to extinguish the fire in the eastbound lanes of I-435 after 7 p.m. The Lenexa and Olathe fire departments assisted in working the crash.
“Significant fire damage,” Rhodes said. “The (trailer) truck was pretty much a shell.”
A police spokesman said motorists should avoid that area of I-435. Drivers should instead use either College Boulevard or 103rd Street at Quivira Road.
The crash happened on a stretch of highway that sees 140,000 cars a day and is undergoing a $16.34 million massive repavement project. Crews this spring began work to replace the concrete pavement on the mainline lanes of the interstate between U.S. 69 and Metcalf Avenue in Overland Park. They also will patch and resurface bridge decks and reconstruct the approaches for the bridges over Indian Creek and Metcalf.
A similar crash occurred last Tuesday in a construction zone on Interstate 70 near Bonner Springs when a tractor trailer rear-ended another vehicle and caused a fiery crash that left five people dead. Police said the driver of the semi was not paying attention and driving too fast when he crashed into a car, an SUV and another tractor-trailer in a construction zone.
Crash deaths in work zones rose more than 20 percent from 2010 to to 2015, the most recent year data are available from the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration.
Work zone deaths in Kansas have remained relatively steady since 2010 — the state records between four and eight each year.
Staying safe in a work zone
1. Slow down and pay attention to signs as you approach road work.
2. Watch for other warnings: A “flagger ahead” warning sign may be posted in the work zone. Stay alert and obey the flagger’s directions. In a work zone, a flagger has the same authority as a regulatory sign.
3. Leave two seconds of braking distance between you and the car in front of you. The amount of space required to provide those two seconds increases if traffic is moving faster.
4. Keep a safe distance between your vehicle and traffic barriers, trucks, construction equipment and workers.
5. If you know there is construction with a detour, plan ahead and find an alternate route.
Source: The Kansas Department of Transportation