Pa. governor says I-95 traffic to resume this weekend with interim fix; permanent repair to follow
Temporary lanes on Interstate 95 will be open sometime this weekend, with permanent repairs to follow, Gov. Josh Shapiro said Tuesday, more than a week after a section of the interstate collapsed in Philadelphia.
“Traffic will be flowing here on I-95 this weekend,” Shapiro said, lauding the around-the-clock work of crews on the stretch of the East Coast’s main north-south highway in northeast Philadelphia.
A section of the northbound lanes of the elevated highway collapsed early June 11 after a tractor-trailer hauling gasoline flipped over on an off-ramp and caught fire. State transportation officials said the driver, who was killed, lost control around a curve. The resulting damage necessitated demolition of the southbound lanes as well, officials said.
Pennsylvania’s plan for a quick interim fix has involved trucking in 2,000 tons of lightweight recycled glass nuggets to fill in the collapsed area, avoiding supply-chain delays for other materials, officials said. After that, a replacement bridge will be built next to it to reroute traffic while crews excavate the fill to restore the exit ramp, officials said.
Shapiro said Tuesday that crews had completed pouring the aggregate into the gap to build it up to the level of the rest of the highway, and cranes were now lifting large outer barriers into place. After that, crews would begin paving and striping three lanes in each direction, he said.
“This weekend, our commuters will finally be able to set their Monday morning alarm clocks back to the regular time, because they won't have to spend extra time in detours,” the governor said.
Pennsylvania's secretary of transportation, Michael Carroll, said he wanted to address questions online about the recycled glass aggregate, which he said had been in use in Pennsylvania for seven or eight years and was in fact under sections of I-95 already. He said it was also being used in several other states.
“I have 100 percent confidence in its ability to withstand the traffic that's on that facility once we open it," Carroll said. "... It’s safe, it’s sound, it’s ready to go to work.”
President Joe Biden, visiting the site with the governor Saturday, called the design “incredibly innovative." He said he had told the governor that there was “no more important project right now in the country," and federal officials have promised to quickly supply whatever aid is needed to complete the project as rapidly as possible.
Shapiro said the repair work would cost an estimated $25 million to $30 million, and the federal government at the highest levels had committed to cover the full cost. He said he would have a timeline on the completion of the permanent repairs once that project begins.
The president said Saturday he knew how important the highway was to Philadelphia and the Northeast Corridor, carrying more than 150,000 vehicles, including 14,000 trucks, every day. "It’s critical to our economy, and it’s critical to our quality of life,’’ he said.