The portion of Interstate 95 that collapsed earlier this month in Philadelphia is now expected to reopen within two weeks, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said following an aerial tour of the site with President Joe Biden over the weekend.
A portion of the northbound lanes of I-95 collapsed on June 11 following a tanker fire beneath the roadway. The incident also left the southbound lanes impassable.
“I can state with confidence that we will have I-95 reopened within the next two weeks,” said Shapiro at the briefing with President Biden at Philadelphia International Airport. “We are going to get traffic moving again thanks to the extraordinary work of those here and our incredible union trade workers.”
Demolition of the bridges, one collapsed and one heavily damaged, was done in just four days and was completed last Thursday.
The plan to reopen traffic on I-95 entails backfilling the site and then later rebuilding the bridges.
Filling the Void
That same day as demolition wrapped up, the Pennsylvania State Police escorted truckloads of foamed glass aggregate fill from AeroAggregates in Delaware County up I-95 to the construction site to make sure they arrived as quickly as possible.
Members of the Philadelphia Building Trades, working for Philadelphia-based contractor Buckley & Company, have begun pouring the foamed glass aggregate into the gap in the roadway, building it up to the surface level of I-95, reports the governor’s office.
Soon after the collapse, Shapiro signed a proclamation of disaster emergency, which he said allowed the commonwealth to immediately draw down federal funds to move quickly in repair and reconstruction.
The proclamation, according to the governor, makes $7 million of state funds immediately available for the reconstruction of the roadway and authorizes the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Transportation, and the Pennsylvania State Police to use all available resources and personnel as necessary.
The proclamation waived bidding and contracting procedures, as well as other formalities normally prescribed by law, Shapiro said in a press release. Per the constitutional amendment approved in 2021, the proclamation will remain in place for 21 days, unless extended by the legislature.
Impact on Truck Traffic
According to the Bureau of Transportation Statistics, trucks carry millions of tons of freight and billions in dollar-value through the region annually. In 2021, trucks carried 21 million tons of freight worth $104 billion between major goods producing and consuming areas to the north and south of the Philadelphia region.
Fortunately for freight movement in the I-95 corridor, said BTS, the bridge collapse occurred in a part of the highway network that has major alternative routes. Freight can travel around Philadelphia on the New Jersey Turnpike and I-295 without significant additions to the distances traveled.
The major disruption is to local freight movements between central Philadelphia and its northeastern suburbs such as Bucks County. Displaced traffic from I-95 to I-295 and the New Jersey Turnpike may cause increased congestion and affect the travel times of trucks.