June 15, 2023
Work is underway to repair the section of I-95 that was destroyed by a tanker-truck fire and explosion in Northeast Philadelphia on Sunday.
PennDOT has a camera set up at the construction the site, near the Cottman Avenue exit. A 24-7 livestream of construction activity will be broadcast online for people to track the progress of the rebuild.
The highway restoration project will be completed in two main phases. The first involves backfilling the gap in the highway left by the demolished bridge and paving the surface to create a temporary road with three lanes traveling in each direction. The temporary road will remain open at all times, allowing traffic to pass through the stretch. The second phase includes the construction of the new bridge.
Officials did not set firm timelines for either phase of the repairs, but said crews will be at the site "around the clock" to get I-95 reopened as quickly and safely as possible. Gov. Josh Shapiro indicated the full project could take several months to complete.
The backfill portion of the project will require about 2,000 tons of lightweight, foamed glass nuggets supplied by AeroAggregates of North America, which has a production site in Delaware County. The nuggets will be layered with additional support from metal caging. The lightweight material is favored to prevent the highway from sinking into the ground below, which has a sewer line running beneath Cottman Avenue.
The temporary road will be built to withstand heavy traffic, weather and the construction of the bridge structure that eventually will replace it. The section of highway being rebuilt carries an average of 160,000 vehicles per day in each direction. It is a critical roadway for commuters and commercial shipping.
Philadelphia-based Buckley & Co. has been hired as the contractor for the highway repairs, which are being paid for by the federal government.
The tanker-truck crash resulted in the death of 53-year-old Nathan Moody, who lost control of his vehicle while navigating a curve along the Cottman Avenue off ramp, officials said. The truck fell on its side beneath the I-95 overpass, rupturing and igniting its fuel tank. Heat from the fire melted the highway's steel support beams, resulting in the collapse of the northbound half of the bridge. The southbound side sustained damage that required it to be demolished.
The crash is being investigated by the National Transportation Safety Board and other agencies.