A portion of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, collapsed Sunday morning and reports indicate it may take months to repair the damaged highway and get it reopened. The section of interstate was shut down following a tanker fire that caused the northbound lanes to collapse and left the southbound lanes impassable.
North and southbound lanes of I-95 in northeast Philadelphia are closed from Exit 22 to Exit 35.
Pennsylvania State Police said a tanker truck carrying 8,500 gallons of gasoline was traveling in the northbound lanes and navigating a left-handed curve of an off-ramp when it overturned, reports FOX29. The crash caused the gasoline to leak into the roadway and catch fire under I-95 at Cottman Avenue.
A motorist crossing the overpass shortly after the crash described the experience to CBS This Morning: "Two cars ahead of me went through the fire, so I just floored it and drove through." As he drove over, the road started to buckle under his vehicle. "I felt it drop like a rollercoaster."
On Monday, a body, believed to be the truck driver, was recovered from the crash site.
I-95 Repair to Take Months
Although only the northbound lanes collapsed, engineers have determined that the southbound lanes must be demolished and rebuilt, as well.
“With regards to the complete rebuild of the I-95 roadway, we expect that to take some number of months. We will have that specific timeline set forth once the engineers and Penn DOT have completed their review,” Governor Josh Shapiro said in a weekend press conference.
The governor signed a proclamation of disaster emergency, which he said will allow the commonwealth to immediately draw down federal funds to move quickly in repair and reconstruction.
The proclamation, according to the governor, makes $7 million of state funds immediately available for the reconstruction of the roadway and authorizes the Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency, the Department of Transportation, and the Pennsylvania State Police to use all available resources and personnel as necessary.
The proclamation also cuts red tape, waiving bidding and contracting procedures, as well as other formalities normally prescribed by law, he said in a press release. Per the constitutional amendment approved in 2021, this proclamation will remain in place for 21 days, unless extended by the legislature.
“I've spoken directly to Secretary Pete Buttigieg of the United States Department of Transportation, along with Sen. (Bob) Casey, Congressman (Francis) Boyle, and other federal officials. My chief of staff has spoken directly to White House officials. All of our federal partners have pledged complete and total support and assistance as we create alternative routes,” Shapiro added.
“Secretary Buttigieg has assured me that there will be absolutely no delay in getting federal funds deployed to quickly help us rebuild this critical artery,” the governor explained.
Detour and Recovery
Secretary Mike Carroll, of Penn DOT, said the damaged portion of I-95 is likely one of the heaviest interstate travel areas in the commonwealth, citing roughly 160,000 vehicles per day use that stretch of highway.
“It is our goal to be as quick in our response and our remediation of the challenges as we can,” said Carroll. “The challenges will be real when it comes to traffic movements in the city as a result of this incident. But working with our partners in the Philadelphia Police Department and others, I'm confident that we will get past this in a way that recognizes the challenges before us.”
The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency reports updated detour information will be provided at 511PA.com.