Sludge spill gums up traffic on Howard Frankland

Published September 5, 2007

TAMPA - A truck spilled a load of sludge onto the Howard Frankland Bridge westbound Tuesday afternoon, causing a three-hour gridlock for commuters and airport traffic.

Lt. Harold Frear of the Florida Highway Patrol said the highway was partly closed from 3:30 p.m. until 6:40 p.m. largely because it took two hours for cleanup crews to arrive.

The actual cleanup, he said, took only 39 minutes.

Arriving passengers at Tampa International Airport, meanwhile, found themselves trapped in the airport until traffic loosened after 7 p.m., TIA spokeswoman Brenda Geoghagan said.

In an effort to ease the traffic, airport officials designated a two-way service road as a one-way escape, getting drivers as far as W Spruce Street before they had to find another route around traffic.

"A lot of people decided to stop in the airport and get a bite to eat," Geoghagan said.

The Soil Tech Distributors truck involved was carrying mud from a construction site, Frear said. The spill, which coated about 200 yards of the highway with mire 4 inches deep, happened in one of the center lanes of the four-lane road.

Soil Tech responded with its own cleanup crew. Though traffic was flowing around the accident site in the external lanes, commuter slowdowns were significant. Two lanes were shut down for a short while during the cleanup, but were quickly reopened.

Last week, two vehicle fires tied up rush hour traffic in both directions on the Howard Frankland Bridge.

Fire crews first responded to a garbage truck on fire in the northbound lanes, and less than three hours later, a pickup truck traveling south on the bridge also caught fire.