Interstate 95 was set to reopen Friday less than two weeks after a deadly collapse in Philadelphia, a quicker-than-expected rebuild to get traffic flowing again on a heavily traveled stretch of the East Coast’s main north-south highway.
Workers were putting the finishing touches on an interim six-lane roadway that will serve motorists during construction of a permanent bridge. Crews worked around the clock and were poised to finish ahead of schedule. The interstate was scheduled to reopen at noon, according to the governor’s office.
The elevated section of I-95 collapsed early on June 11 after a tractor-trailer hauling gasoline flipped on an off-ramp and caught fire. State transportation officials said the driver, who was killed, lost control around a curve. There were no other deaths or injuries.
The closure of an important commercial artery snarled traffic in and around Philadelphia and threatened to raise the cost of consumer goods as truckers were forced to detour around the area. State and federal officials pledged quick action to minimize the economic impact and inconvenience.
To get I-95 operating again as quickly as possible, workers used about 2,000 tons (1,814 metric tons) of lightweight glass nuggets to fill the underpass and bring it up to surface level, then paved over to create three lanes of travel in each direction. A permanent bridge will eventually be constructed.
President Joe Biden joined Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro on a helicopter tour of the site a little more than a week after the collapse and praised the design as “incredibly innovative in order to get this work done in record time.”
With rain threatening to delay the reopening, a truck-mounted jet dryer normally used to keep moisture off the track at Pocono Raceway was brought in to keep the fresh asphalt dry enough for lines to be painted.
The 24-hour construction work was live-streamed, drawing thousands of viewers online.
The Philadelphia disaster echoed a similar situation in Atlanta, where 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.
In Oakland, California, a collapsed highway ramp was replaced in 26 days.