Shapiro Says Collapsed Stretch of I-95 in Philadelphia Will Reopen Within 2 Weeks

President Joe Biden listens as Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro speaks at the Philadelphia International Airport in Philadelphia, Saturday, June 17, 2023, after an aerial tour of the Interstate 95 highway collapse. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta)

By Patrick Berkery

June 18, 2023

Pennsylvania’s governor set the timeline Saturday, after joining President Joe Biden on a helicopter tour over the critical segment of the highway closed since a fiery tanker accident last weekend.

PHILADELPHIA — Mark your calendars, Philadelphia drivers. According to Gov. Josh Shapiro, the collapsed stretch of I-95 in Northeast Philly will reopen just before the July 4 holiday.

Shapiro set the timeline Saturday, after joining President Joe Biden on a helicopter tour over the critical segment of the highway closed to East Coast traffic since last weekend. 

“We are getting it done here in Philly,” Gov. Josh Shapiro said at a briefing at Philadelphia International Airport after the flyover. Fellow Pennsylvania Democrats Sens. Bob Casey and John Fetterman, US Rep. Brendan Boyle, and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney accompanied Biden and Shapiro for the flyover.

Biden outlined the substantial initial federal commitment and longer term support for a permanent fix for the vital roadway. “I know how important this stretch of highway is” to Philadelphia and the Northeast Corridor, he said. “Over 150,000 vehicles travel on it every day, including 14,000 trucks. … It’s critical to our economy and it’s critical to our quality of life.”

Shapiro, offering a timeline that would be welcome news to commuters and long-haul truckers alike, said with Biden at his side: “I can state with confidence that we will have I-95 reopened within the next two weeks. We are going to get traffic moving again thanks to the extraordinary work that is going on here.”

He said “folks here in Philly have a real renewed sense of civic pride through this project” and that “there’s something special happening in our community” with people coming together.

The stretch of the East Coast’s main north-south highway collapsed early last Sunday after a tractor-trailer hauling gasoline flipped over on an off-ramp and caught fire. State transportation officials said the driver, Nathaniel Moody, was trying to navigate a curve and lost control.

Moody, 53, died in the accident.

“I’ve directed my team … to move heaven and earth to get this done as soon as humanly possible,” Biden said. He said he told the governor, “There’s no more important project right now in the country as far as I’m concerned.” The president described it as an “all hands on deck” project to address a “crisis.”

“We’re with you. We’re going to stay with you until this is rebuilt, until it’s totally finished,” he said at the briefing.

Pennsylvania’s plan for the work involves trucking in 2,000 tons of lightweight glass nuggets for the quick rebuilding, with crews working around the clock until the interstate is open to traffic.

PennDOT launched a 24-7 livestream of the construction last week. 

Instead of rebuilding the overpass right away, crews will use the recycled glass to fill in the collapsed area to avoid supply-chain delays for other materials, Shapiro has 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 have said.

Biden said the design was “incredibly innovative in order to get this work done in record time.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, who visited the area Tuesday, promised that the federal government would provide the needed assistance to repair the destruction, although he warned that the wreckage will likely raise the cost of consumer goods in the short term because truckers must now travel longer routes.

Information from the Associated Press was used in this story.

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