June 20, 2023
The stretch of I-95 destroyed by a truck fire in Northeast Philadelphia will reopen this weekend following the completion of the project to backfill and repave the highway, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said Tuesday. The temporary roadway will have three lanes of traffic in each direction and will remain open at all times as workers construct a permanent bridge to repair the highway.
Over the last week, construction crews have worked around the clock to backfill and reconnect the gap in the highway by using a recycled glass aggregate material. That process was completed Tuesday, Shapiro said, and will be followed by the installation of barriers on either side of the roadway. Then the temporary roadway will be paved and painted with traffic lines.
An exact time for the roadway's reopening is dependent on weather and the pace of progress in the coming days, but Shapiro said the project is on course.
"We're confident we'll hit this weekend," Shapiro said.
PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll reaffirmed the safety of the backfill that will support the temporary roadway reopen this weekend.
"I think it's important for folks to know that that glass aggregate is not new," Carroll said, listing multiple states that have used it in similar projects. "It's been used in Pennsylvania for seven or eight years — under I-95 in various sections already."
Carroll said the each of the layered panels used to support the backfill project weighs about 13,000 pounds. By comparison, the average sedan weights 3,000 pounds.
"The totality of the weight from the barriers will be about 400,000 pounds — far in excess of any truck that will traverse the new structure," Carroll said. "I have 100% confidence in its ability to withstand the traffic that's on that facility once we reopen it."
The estimated timeline for the construction of the permanent bridge is still being determined by PennDOT. The federally-funded repairs are expected to cost $25-$30 million, Shapiro said.
Shapiro said he's been thrilled by the enthusiasm surrounding the I-95 repairs and the 24-7 livestream that shows the progress being made on the project.
"It is amazing for the public to see. I've loved watching it," Shapiro said. "It pumps me up."
Shapiro said the speediness and collaboration of the effort to reopen I-95 are examples of the mindset that Pennsylvania residents need to embrace when challenges arise. He said surprise over the quickness of this project should be eye-opening.
"I think it speaks to the fact that we haven't always had a can-do attitude around here — that we can get big things done ... quickly and safely," Shapiro said. "We can see a crisis and we can manage it effectively."