Gov. Josh Shapiro said Wednesday that crews will work 24 hours a day in Philadelphia to reopen a collapsed section of an important East Coast highway, but he wouldn’t estimate how long it will take to get traffic flowing through an artery that is critical to commerce.
Investigators continued to look into why a truck hauling gasoline went out of control on an off-ramp and flipped on its side, igniting a fire early Sunday that caused the collapse of the northbound lanes of Interstate 95 and severely damaged the southbound lanes.
Shapiro, appearing at a news conference with transportation officials and labor leaders, repeatedly declined to give a time estimate to reopen the roadway.
“We’re going to get this job done as quickly as possible,” Shapiro said, noting that I-95 is a “key part of our economy.”
Crews will not immediately rebuild the bridge, which is roughly 100-feet (30 meters) long and 150 feet (46 meters) wide. Instead, workers will fill the gap by piling many tons of recycled glass aggregate into the underpass area, bringing it up to surface level and then paving it over so that three lanes of traffic can reopen each way, Shapiro said.
After that, a replacement bridge will be built next to it to reroute traffic while crews excavate the fill to restore the exit ramp, officials said.
Shapiro said unionized workers will work nonstop until the section of I-95 is repaired. He insisted that the plan is safe.
Demolition was expected to finish Thursday, and trucks hauling aggregate could arrive the same day, officials said.
Meanwhile, the collapse is snarling traffic in Philadelphia as the summer travel season starts, upending hundreds of thousands of morning commutes, disrupting countless businesses and forcing trucking companies to find different routes.
The Biden administration is pledging its aid.
For now, I-95 is closed in both directions. The elevated southbound portion of I-95 was being demolished, as well as the northbound side, officials say.
The disruption is likely raise the cost of consumer goods because truckers must now travel longer routes, U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.
Of the 160,000 vehicles a day that travel that section, 8% are trucks, Buttigieg said.
Police say the driver died in the accident. The Philadelphia medical examiner identified him Tuesday night as Nathan Moody, 53.
State police officials said the trucking company had contacted them and has been cooperating, but declined to identify the company or say whether it was properly licensed for hauling gasoline.
Authorities say the driver was headed northbound on his way to deliver fuel to a convenience store when the truck lost control on a curving off-ramp, landing on its side and rupturing the tank.