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City adds up its losses from I-375 tanker crash

By JON WILSON
Published April 9, 2007


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ST. PETERSBURG - The city lost 24 vehicles worth more than $700,000 in the March 28 tanker explosion on Interstate 375, including mowers, a tractor, a truck and a wood chipper.

The vehicles caught fire in the city's equipment maintenance yard near the spot where a Penn Lines tanker carrying 12,000 gallons of fuel crashed into an exit ramp.

The accident caused a giant blast, poured fuel into sewers, started numerous fires and threw burning fuel into the yard. The tanker's driver died in the wreck.

The city vehicles were a total loss, said Mike Connors, the internal services administrator.

Some vehicles were new. They are expected to be replaced "one-on-one," said City Council member John Bryan. Insurance will cover the replacement costs.

"I think we'll probably come out of it whole," Bryan said.

The city maintenance yard is at 1800 Seventh Ave. N close to the I-275 and I-375 junction. Crews in the yard take care of more than 3,200 pieces of equipment worth about $76.7-million.

Equipment ranges from fire department ladder trucks to chain saws.

Among the vehicles lost were slope mowers, which are used to trim drainage ditch banks.

Three of them were probably the biggest pieces to burn, Connors said. They carry 18-foot booms and a large, circular cutter.

But Connors said city crews shouldn't fall behind on maintenance, thanks to Pinellas County government lending the city equipment for two months, the approximate time needed to replace the destroyed pieces.

"With the growing season, if we got behind, it would be difficult to catch up," Connors said.

In addition, the city parks department has provided drainage crews with a slope mower.

Meanwhile, repairs to the eastbound ramp, which is closed to traffic, are expected to finished by May 1, Connors said.

Demolition of the old structure was close to completion late last week and reconstruction is expected to start today, Connors said.

The I-375 ramp ends downtown. Traffic on other city streets is not expected to be affected during ramp repairs. Repair costs have yet to be determined.

City and state crews are about halfway through inspecting lines in the drainage system around the ramp, and, so far, no structural problems have been detected, Connors said.

He said the fuel spillage left fumes in the pipe system, causing "dozens of little miniexplosions with the fumes igniting."

By the numbers

24 City vehicles were destroyed in the fire

$700,000 Value of those 24 vehicles

12,000 Gallons of fuel spilled in the crash

3,200 Pieces of equipment in the maintenance yard

$76.7 -million Value of equipment under the care of the yard

[Last modified April 9, 2007, 07:13:16]


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