When will I-95 reopen? Officials unveil plan to repair highway, but decline questions on timeline

By6abc Digital Staff WTVD logo
Thursday, June 15, 2023
When will I-95 reopen? Officials unveil plan to repair highway, but decline questions on timeline
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro provided more details on Wednesday about the work that will be done to reopen Interstate 95 in Philadelphia.

PHILADELPHIA -- Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro provided more details on Wednesday about the work that will be done to reopen Interstate 95 in Philadelphia.

During a news conference, Shapiro said the plan is to fill the gap with backfill and then pave over it to create a temporary roadway and get the highway open again.

Pennsylvania Governor Shapiro provides updates on the reconstruction of I-95.

Philadelphia-based contractor Buckley & Company has been hired to do the work. The same company rebuilt a section of I-95 in Port Richmond following a 1996 arson.

Shapiro said they expect the first loads of backfill to arrive on site Thursday.

READ MORE | Delaware County company to help repair I-95 in Philadelphia with special fill

Secretary of Transportation Mike Carroll said the backfill is a "lightweight material, a recycled glass-type product" that is reusable.

"It's going to be engineered in a way that will be completely reliable for the travelling public," said Carroll.

There will be three lanes open in each direction while the state then works to build a permanent bridge to replace the section that collapsed.

As for the remains of the current bridge, Shapiro said demolition is expected to be completed Thursday.

Shapiro and other officials said the work will be done as quickly as possible but gave no timeline.

"Getting I-95 repaired and reopened is our top priority - and we are working our tails off. Under the leadership of Secretary Carroll, and with the support of our federal and local partners and the talented trades workers right here in Philadelphia, we are moving full steam ahead. Government is working for the good people of Pennsylvania. We have a lot do to, and together, we will get this done," Shapiro said.

There will also be a livestream available so the public can watch the repairs in real time.

Pete Buttigieg promises federal support

On Tuesday, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited the site of Sunday's collapse and promised to help repair the interstate. He said that the destruction of a section of I-95 will likely raise shipping costs because truckers must now travel longer, pricier routes.

Buttigieg said he expected that the accident will put "upward pressure" on costs along the East Coast.

"This tragic crash is having an outsized impact on commuters and on goods movement up and down the I-95 corridor. It's a key artery for the movement of people and goods. And that's why it's so important to make sure that it's restored quickly. The only thing that's even more important than making sure it's restored quickly is making sure it's restored safely," Buttigieg said.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg speaks at the I-95 collapse site in Philadelphia.

Buttigieg said he had not seen any sort of estimate of cost increases, but said the industry is working to make the most of alternative routes. He suggested that the U.S. Department of Transportation is working with route-selecting software firms such as Google and Waze to optimize their products.

"At the end of the day, there's no substitute for I-95 being up and running in full working condition," Buttigieg said.

Buttigieg met with city and state officials to discuss how the U.S. Department of Transportation can help rebuild the roughly 100-foot-long section of I-95, the agency said.

For now, I-95 will be closed in both directions for weeks as the summer travel season starts, upending hundreds of thousands of morning commutes and disrupting countless businesses.

The elevated southbound portion of I-95 will have to be demolished, as well as the northbound side, officials say.

Truck Driver's Cause of Death

The Philadelphia Medical Examiner's Office officially identified the victim killed in the tanker fire that led to the collapse of I-95.

Officials say Nathan Moody died from blunt trauma of the head, inhalation and thermal injuries. His manner of death was ruled an accident.

Moody was hauling gasoline on Sunday while attempting to navigate a left-hand turn after exiting at the Cottman Avenue offramp of I-95.

'He was awesome' Cousin remembers trucker involved in I-95 collapse

According to Secretary Carroll, Moody lost control through his turn, and the tanker fell on its side and ruptured its own tank.

Once ignited, the fuel burned at a high enough heat to structurally compromise the concrete and steel I-beams of the overpass.

Pennsylvania State Police says video of the crash and explosion is now part of the investigation.

According to family members, Moody worked for TK Transport in Pennsauken, New Jersey. They say he was an experienced truck driver.

His death has been a devastating blow.

SEE ALSO | 'He was awesome' Cousin remembers trucker involved in Interstate 95 collapse in Philly

He was awesome. He was awesome," said his cousin, Isaac Moody, while fighting back tears.

Isaac Moody says his cousin was his best friend.

"I wasn't expecting this. Nobody was expecting this," said Isaac Moody.

As demolition of the broken roadway continued Tuesday, those who knew Nathaniel Moody said he was a friendly and warm man.

Al Newman said he served with Moody in the Pennsylvania National Guard where Moody was a Sergeant and sponsored him to become a Prince Hall Mason.

"No matter what went wrong, Nate always had a smile on his face. He was the type of guy, even the negativity some of the things that happened in the military, he would always find humor it," Newman told Action News.

Watch raw video from the Action Cam of a fire under an I-95 overpass in the Tacony section of Philadelphia that led to a partial collapse of the highway.

The 6abc Action Cam was at the Pennsylvania Task Force One headquarters in the 6600 block of New State Road in the Tacony section of the city on Monday afternoon as the wreckage of the truck was hauled away.

Pictured: The wreckage of truck involved in the fire Sunday morning that led to the collapse of an elevated portion of I-95.

Disaster Emergency Proclamation

Governor Shapiro signed a proclamation of disaster emergency following the collapse.

According to a press release from the governor's office, "The proclamation allows the Commonwealth to quickly draw down federal funds and authorizes state agencies to use all available resources to expedite work and cut through the red tape to rebuild I-95 safely and as efficiently as possible."

The damaged I-95 segment carries about 160,000 vehicles daily, believed to be the busiest roadway in Pennsylvania, state officials said.

PennDOT rated the 104-foot span as in good condition earlier this year, with another inspection set for 2025.

Officials say rebuilding the highway could take months.

In California, a similar situation happened with a highway ramp in Oakland. It was replaced in 26 days, Joseph L. Schofer, a retired professor of civil and environmental engineering from Northwestern University, said.

In Atlanta, an elevated portion of Interstate 85 collapsed in a fire, shutting down the heavily traveled route through the heart of the city in March 2017. It took authorities there 43 days to replace it, Schofer said.


The Associated Press contributed to this report.