June 14, 2023
The section of I-95 destroyed in Sunday's tanker-truck fire will be backfilled and paved to create a temporary roadway, reconnecting the highway with three lanes traveling in each direction, officials said Wednesday morning. Once completed, this will allow I-95 to reopen while construction of a permanent bridge is completed.
Gov. Josh Shapiro did not provide a timeline for either phase of the upcoming rebuild, but said that construction crews will be working on the project 24-7. The state will create a livestream, broadcasting the project's progress online.
"We are going to show this city, our commonwealth and the world our grittiness, our toughness, the ingenuity and the capacity to get this road reopened as quickly as possible," Shapiro said.
The governor was joined on State Road by leaders from the Philadelphia Building Trades, PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll and federal officials, as crews continued the demolition of the southbound side of the bridge behind them. That work is expected to be done Thursday, ahead of schedule.
A recycled glass material will be used to backfill the gap in the highway. Workers will then pave on top of that material, creating a temporary road surface that's level with the rest of the highway. Shapiro said the material was recommended by experts as a safe option that can withstand traffic, weather and the construction of a new bridge.
"Once complete, cars and trucks can return to this stretch of I-95, and then we will work together to build a permanent bridge while making sure we keep six lanes of traffic open at all times that (the) bridge construction goes on," Shapiro said.
Philadelphia-based contractor Buckley & Co. has been hired to do the construction work.
The governor explained that this plan was deemed the most efficient way to reopen the highway while pursuing a long-term solution. The project will be fully funded by the federal government, which immediately released $3 million to start the work. The disaster declaration Shapiro signed on Monday also made $7 million available for other responses to the highway collapse.
"We will have a full accounting of the cost and we will have every dollar that we need to get this done," Shapiro said.
The ongoing crash investigation, led by the National Transportation Safety Board and other agencies, will determine whether the trucking company whose vehicle was involved in Sunday's crash is liable for any costs associated with the rebuild. The truck driver killed in the crash was identified Tuesday night as 53-year-old Nathan Moody, who was hauling fuel for TK Transport, which is based in Pennsauken, Camden County.
"It's an ongoing investigation," Shapiro said. "We'll see what happens when that's over."
Shapiro was asked multiple times to estimate when the various phases of the project will be done, but the governor only repeated that no time will be wasted.
"Listen, when you all are sleeping in the middle of the night, when I'm sleeping in the middle of the night, these guys are going to be working on this road," Shapiro said.
Ryan Boyer, business manager of the Philadelphia Building Trades, said crews will be at work regardless of windy or rainy conditions for the duration of the project.
"We will fix this as quickly and safely as we can," Boyer said.
Detours associated with the work will be coordinated by city officials as the project moves forward.
"We will continue to prioritize helping people and goods travel through the region," Mayor Jim Kenney said.
PennDOT Secretary Carroll expects about 15,000 cubic yards of the lightweight, recycled glass material will be used for the project's initial phase.
"It's going to be engineered in a way that will be completely reliable for the traveling public while the remainder of the work is done," Carroll said. "I have every confidence (in) the engineers at PennDOT, our consultants (and) federal highway administration oversight."