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PA Officials Plan to Announce Timeline to Re-Open I-95 Today

At a press conference punctuated — and sometimes drowned out — by the sound of jackhammers, state officials gathered at the site of the I-95 collapse Tuesday and said they would announce Wednesday when they expect the vital highway to reopen.

They were joined by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who pledged “every resource that is needed will be made available” to repair the bridge as quickly as possible.

A portion of the interstate collapsed into rubble after an out-of-control tanker truck hauling gasoline crashed on an off-ramp and burst into flames. Buttigieg toured the site with PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll, SEPTA  General Manager Leslie Richards,  and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney.

“This tragic crash is having an outsize impact on commuters and goods moving up and down the I-95 corridor,” said Buttigieg. “It’s a key artery for the movement of people and goods. That’s why it’s important to get this restored quickly. The only thing that’s even more important than restoring this quickly is ensuring it’s restored safely. And I can’t say enough good things about the coordination I see here on the ground between first responders, state officials, and our own federal personnel to make sure that happens.”

He pointed out first responders were directing traffic around detours and that SEPTA had “stepped up” to add extra trains.

Charred, collapsed I-95 underpass

Carroll and Gov. Josh Shapiro will hold an event Wednesday announcing when I-95 will reopen.

“We’re going to try and do it as quickly as we can,” he said.

Shapiro declared an emergency on Monday, freeing up $7 million in state funds to start the demolition and reconstruction process.

The I-95 closure is creating “a serious strain” on the region’s transportation system,” said Richards, not just on the interstate but on secondary roads and also for SEPTA. She listed all the steps SEPTA has taken to help commuters, with extra trains in the morning and evening, more cars on those trains, and free parking in the SEPTA lots.

“As you all know, Philadelphia is a resilient city,” she said. SEPTA officials are analyzing performance and ridership to see if more improvements should be made “to help those who usually drive.”

U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg talks to Pennsylvania Secretary of Transportation Mike Carroll

Speaking to reporters, Buttigieg said, “What a lot of people don’t always see behind those inflation numbers is the importance of our supply chains. Part of the cost of everything we buy in the store is shipment, and if a route isn’t disrupted or if it’s longer or trucks have to wait, that finds its way into the cost of goods.”

“At the end of the day, there’s no substitute for I-95 being up and running. And that’s the goal everybody’s working toward.”

An average of 160,000 vehicles roll through Philadelphia on I-95 daily, and 8 percent of those vehicles are trucks.

“That is a lot of America’s GDP moving along that road every single day,” he said.

“The trucks will have to take longer and more costly routes to get where they’re going,” he said. But truck drivers are creative and will adapt. He said DOT is working with Google and Waze to optimize alternate routes through their directional services.

Buttigieg added that the National Transportation Safety Board is investigating how the accident happened.

“This was an enormously intense fire underneath a structure that, my understanding is, is relatively new in its construction,” said Buttigieg. “And the result of that much heat, that much fuel burning, is, of course, what compromised the structure.”

Asked about increasing truck safety regulations, he said that while the nation has been paying attention to air and railroad safety, “it has been harder to get people focused on roadway safety, an issue that claims 40,000 lives a year.”

State Police Capt. Gerard McShea declined to confirm whether media reports of the truck driver’s name who died in the fiery crash are correct. Later Tuesday, James Garrow, the Philadelphia Department of Health spokesman, said, the body found in the remains of the tanker truck was that of Nathan Moody. His cause of death was blunt trauma to the head, inhalation and thermal injuries. The coroner found the manner of death to be an accident. 

McShea said police are analyzing a video of the crash circulating on social media, which showed the truck getting off the northbound ramp toward Cottman Avenue from I-95 and an explosion afterward.

The exit and underpass are not usually places where “we often respond to collisions,” he said.

Carroll said the contractor working at the site had already been working nearby on I-95 on a different project, so it made sense to hire that company, and no bid was needed for the emergency work. As for an incentive to rebuild the roadway quickly, he said, “We’re already working 24/7.”

“If there is anything we can do to be helpful, we stand ready to assist,” said Buttigieg.


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PA Gov. Shapiro to Declare I-95 Road Collapse a Disaster

Many DelVal residents, especially Bucks County residents, will be looking for other ways to get to work in Philadelphia with the sudden closure Sunday of I-95 after a fire caused the northbound lanes to collapse near the Cottman Avenue exit.

The interstate is a major north-south link for the East Coast.

A tanker carrying a petroleum product caught on fire on Princeton Avenue underneath the highway around 6:20 a.m., officials said. About 160,000 vehicles travel I-95 daily through Philadelphia, said PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll. Vehicles will be detouring around the collapse, which has the highway closed in both directions.

Gov. Josh Shapiro held a press conference Sunday and said he will be declaring a disaster so that federal funds will be freed up to rebuild the highway and expedite the reconstruction process.

At least one vehicle was still trapped underneath the collapsed roadway, he said.

“Preliminary reports indicate that a commercial truck carrying a petroleum-based product was the source of the fire,” said Shapiro. “We’re still working to identify any individual or individuals who may have been caught in the fire and the collapse.”

Both the state police and Philadelphia police have been diverting traffic around the area, he said. The Pennsylvania Emergency Management Agency (PEMA) has also been on site, coordinating response efforts. Also, the Department of Environmental Protection has been coordinating with the U.S. Coast Guard and the Philadelphia Water Department doing environmental assessments, Shapiro said.

The intense fire damaged the southbound side of the highway and engineers determined it was not structurally sound. They are also looking for interim solutions, Shapiro said.

A complete rebuild will take “some number of months,” said Shapiro. Ironically, this section of the interstate only reopened not long ago after major reconstruction for a new Cottman Avenue off-ramp.

Shapiro spoke with U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg, Sen. Bob Casey Congressman Brendan Boyle (D-Philadelphia) and other federal officials.

“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,” said Shapiro.

Shapiro said it will be “all hands on deck to repair this as safely and efficiently as possible.”

Bucks County resident Paul Martino, who owns Bankroll, a new sports bar in Center City Philadelphia, said, “I am out of town right now, but I am sure it will be a mess.”

Amanda Cortes, a Fairless Hills resident who teaches first grade at Lawton Elementary in Philadelphia is glad there are only two more days until the summer break because she’ll be taking alternate routes and she’s sure traffic will be bad.

“It’s just going to be extra traffic, I assume, with the closure and everything,” said Cortes. She does not think they’ll have the highway open when the new school year starts in September.

“I doubt it,” said Cortes. “I’m already anticipating the beginning of the school year to continue taking the detour because I can’t see it getting fixed that quickly.”

Maryann Brown, a pharmacist who lives in Warminster and works at a pharmacy in northeast Philadelphia, said, “All the back roads like State Road and Frankfort Avenue will be busy. People now will have to take the train or leave early for work. The pharmacy’s delivery service will be affected. With prices going up and gas going up, stress will increase.”

Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney told people to plan alternate routes.

“City agencies are working with our state partners to respond to the partial collapse of I-95 from a vehicle fire. Please avoid the area and plan for alternative routes of travel. We will continue to provide updates on this incident,” said Kenney. “I want to thank our first responders, PennDOT, SEPTA, and all our state and local partners for your continued response to this incident. And thank you, Gov. Shapiro, for coming to Philadelphia and for your continued support. Coordination between state, city agencies, and elected officials, has been, and will continue to be essential to our emergency response effort as well as with recovery and reconstruction.”

PennDOT has detour routes in place in the area:

I-95 Southbound: Route 63 West (Woodhaven Road), U.S. 1 South, 76 East, 676 East and I-95 Northbound: I-676 West, I-76 West, U.S. 1 North to Route 63 East (Woodhaven Road), as well as other information.

Bus routes in that area will also be impacted.

“This emergency has created a tremendous challenge for our transportation network. SEPTA is committed to working with the city and the state to help our residents get through this,” said SEPTA General Manager and CEO Leslie S. Richards. “We are working hard to ensure that SEPTA is providing reliable service on Regional Rail, the Market-Frankford Line, buses and other transit services. We will monitor service and make adjustments as we move forward, so please check for the latest updates at and @SEPTA.”