Tanker Truck Explodes, Closes I-70 In Kansas City

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KANSAS CITY, MO (KCTV) - Both directions of Interstate 70 in east Kansas City are closed following a wreck and explosion near Manchester Trafficway, and won't reopen until late tonight or the overnight hours.

The reopening of the highway has been delayed because of the hazardous materials involved and damage to the tanker's valves. This has complicated the removal of hazardous and flammable materials from the overturned tanker.

The tanker was removed by 8 p.m. Friday and the cleanup has begun. Once the highway is flushed, highway workers will repair the road and begin opening up lanes.

The Missouri Department of Transportation agency had warned motorists to plan for alternative routes tonight, including getting to Kauffman Stadium for the Royals game that started just after 7 p.m.

Many fans got to the stadium sooner than normal out of an abundance of caution. Normally the post-work crowd shows up around 6:30 p.m., but Friday it was more like 5 p.m., workers said.

The wreck caused massive traffic headaches that lasted for most of Friday.

"MODOT believes that reopening the interstate may not occur until well after 8 p.m. tonight, based on revised estimates of the dangerous nature of the cleanup," according to a news release emailed at 12:10 p.m.

The tanker truck carrying polyacetate, a substance used in glue, crashed into the median and burst into a fireball at 4:45 a.m. Friday. The tanker was also carrying a flammable liquid like paint thinner.

Traffic is being stopped at I-435 on the east and Highway 40 on the west.

The tanker was the only vehicle involved in this wreck, which occurred just west of the Truman Sports Complex.

Alternatives are 23rd Street or Highway 40. Motorists are also taking I-435 to access other roads. Traffic on westbound I-70 is backed up as motorists try to get off at I-435.

The driver leaped from the truck just before the crash. He was treated for minor injuries but is otherwise OK. Police said he told investigators that the load shifted, causing the crash. The man was hauling a semi with three chambers.

Because of the chemicals sprayed to put out the fire, the highway is expected to remain closed for some time. In addition, a portion of the concrete media was pushed into the eastbound lanes. An overhead sign was melted because of the intense heat from the flames.

"Workers and emergency personnel are exercising extreme caution, investigating the safest way to remove potentially explosive liquid from the damaged tanker," MODOT said in a news release. "Safety of the public and of responders to this incident are the highest priority until the dangers posed by the cleanup are neutralized."

MODOT had hoped to re-open two eastbound lanes after 1 p.m. and the westbound lanes by rush hour. That proved to be futile.

"Fans coming to tonight's Kansas City Royals game at Kauffman Stadium from the west should consider alternate routes. Those coming from the east on westbound I-70 may also want to consider exiting sooner onto Route 40 and entering the sports complex from other routes," according to the MODOT news release.

However, Highway 40 was a parking lot from rush hour traffic.

"I-435 may offer the best access to the Truman Sports Complex and Kauffman Stadium," MODOT advised. "Those heading to the game should leave much earlier than planned."

To help expedite the work, highway workers staged equipment and replacement materials on site so they can be used as soon as the cleanup is completed and the tanker and the rig removed.

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