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I-95 Bridge in Philadelphia Reopens Under Two Weeks After Tanker Fire Damage

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The Interstate 95 bridge in Philadelphia has reopened to traffic after sustaining severe damage from a tanker fire just under two weeks ago. Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro held a press conference this morning to announce the reopening, while workers added final touches to a temporary span. Since constructing a permanent replacement bridge will take several months, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) decided to build temporary lanes in both directions, allowing traffic to resume on the main north-south highway of the East Coast.

To provide updates on the repair progress, PennDOT established an information portal on its website. In a recent update, the agency stated that travel restrictions on streets surrounding the overpass would be lifted, and three temporary lanes would open in each direction on I-95. PennDOT completed the placement of median and barrier installations this morning before allowing traffic back onto the interstate. However, the repair efforts faced challenges due to wet weather, which made it difficult to cure asphalt and apply lane markings. Fortunately, Pocono Raceway and NASCAR offered assistance by providing a jet dryer truck to help dry the surface.

The bridge collapse occurred on June 11 after a fatal crash involving a gasoline tanker truck, which triggered a massive blaze beneath the bridge, severely compromising its structural integrity. The driver, unfortunately, lost control around a curve and was killed, but there were no other fatalities or injuries reported.

The closure of this vital commercial route caused significant traffic congestion in and around Philadelphia, leading cars and trucks to take detours. State and federal officials promised swift action to minimize the economic impact and inconvenience caused by the closure.

To expedite the reopening of I-95, workers used approximately 2,000 tons (1,814 metric tons) of lightweight glass nuggets to fill the underpass and bring it up to the surface level. They then paved over the area, creating three lanes of travel in each direction. The 24-hour construction work was live-streamed and garnered thousands of online viewers.

President Joe Biden visited the site with Governor Josh Shapiro a little over a week after the collapse, commending the innovative design that allowed the repairs to be completed in record time. Governor Shapiro expressed his confidence in reopening I-95 over the weekend, acknowledging the tremendous progress made by the crews and the coordination between local, state, and federal partners. He credited the hard-working individuals of the Philadelphia Building Trades for their efforts in making this possible.

Permanent repairs are estimated to take several months and are expected to cost at least $30 million, according to PennDOT.

A live video of the flowing traffic/construction from the state Department of Transportation can be viewed here.

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