The collapsed bridge on I-95 in Philadelphia will reopen this weekend after a deadly tanker truck crash caused its fiery collapse on June 11, advancing the estimated time of reopening by months.
This follows $3 million in "quick release" emergency funding from the federal government, which praised Pennsylvania's "innovative" and "out-of-the-box" approach.
“I can state with confidence that we will have I-95 reopened within the next two weeks,” Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro said alongside President Biden at Philadelphia International Airport on Saturday. “We are going to get traffic moving again thanks to the extraordinary work of those here and our incredible union trade workers.”
On Thursday, Shapiro confirmed to NBC Philadelphia that "traffic will be flowing here on I-95 this weekend."
Initially, Shapiro had estimated the repairs would take "a couple months." Trucking operations in the immediate area began planning for long-term disruptions to travel, a few sharing with Overdrive their preferred alternative routes.
Work on the interim roadway began on Friday, which Shapiro called a "very productive" day. Three lanes of traffic in each direction will open within weeks, allowing motorists to continue using the bridge.
Fixing the bridge in two weeks would equate to just about 21 days of downtime for I-95 in this section of the road. That's about half the six weeks it took to repair the I-85 bridge collapse in Atlanta, Georgia, in 2017.
The Federal Highway Administration at first shied away from comparisons between I-85 and I-95 incidents, but now are praising the project as a creative fix.
"We support the innovative approach PennDOT is taking to backfill and pave the opening as a means to reopen I-95 as soon as possible," a FHWA spokesperson told Overdrive. "This is a unique and innovative approach that demonstrates out-of-the-box thinking and could help shave off months from the timeline to reopen" the vital route.
Pressed on what was so creative about the repair work, PennDOT Community Relations Manager Robyn Briggs pointed to this innovative aspect raised by Governor Shapiro: "We are offering the public a 24/7 live feed of the construction site to chart our progress and give everyone a sense of timing as we move forward ... Second, our crews will use approximately 7,200 cubic yards of an innovative material, foamed (recycled) glass aggregate, to fill in the collapsed area to avoid supply-chain delays for other materials. This will allow us to open temporary travel lanes on I-95, three in each direction, while work proceeds to rebuild the outer sections of the bridge."
So a livestream and some local aggregate shaved months off the repair time for I-95? Apparently so.
The local trucking community continues to mourn the loss of Nathan Moody, the local tanker truck driver whose crash caused the bridge collapse. Many local drivers report taking the loss as a grim reminder of necessary safety measures, especially when transporting fuel.
For now, PennDOT still recommends the following detours:
- I-95 Southbound: Route 63 West (Woodhaven Road), U.S. 1 South, 76 East, 676 East
- I-95 Northbound: I-676 West, I-76 West, U.S. 1 North to Route 63 East (Woodhaven Road)