I-95 Pennsylvania lanes open, cars drive down lanes on livestream

The damaged portion of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia was reopened ahead of schedule Friday, less than two weeks after a deadly collapse shut down the major East Coast thoroughfare and caused chaos for commuters.

Workers put the finishing touches on six temporary lanes that will serve motorists during construction of a permanent bridge.

“This was a moment of civic pride for Philly and Pennsylvania. We all came together and we proved that we could do big things again in Pennsylvania,” Gov. Josh Shapiro said Friday at a news conference at the site.

After he spoke, a procession of fire engines — one carrying Philadelphia’s pro sports mascots — and police vehicles crossed the northbound lanes of I-95, opening the new roadway as construction workers in hard hats looked on.

Mascots from professional Philadelphia sports teams cross over the repaired section of Interstate 95 as the highway is reopened Friday, June 23, 2023 in Philadelphia.  Workers put the finishing touches on an interim six-lane roadway that will serve motorists during construction of a permanent bridge.

The critical I-95 section had collapsed after a tanker truck caught fire, killing the driver. Earlier this week, Shapiro said the lanes would reopen over the weekend, ahead of schedule. In the aftermath of the collapse, exerts predicted full repairs would take months.

The section of I-95 that collapsed is in northeast Philadelphia’s Tacony neighborhood. The interstate, which runs along the East Coast, is a major local artery for commuters in Pennsylvania, Delaware and New Jersey, as well as summer beach-goers headed to the Jersey Shore and Delaware’s many beach towns.

How did Philadelphia reopen I-95 this quickly?

On Thursday, Shapiro said crews needed 12 hours of “dry weather” to “complete the paving and striping process,” in order to reopen I-95.

The governor said workers were racing against time to beat rain that was in the forecast. To speed up the repairs, construction teams borrowed a jet dryer from a private raceway to “help dry this section of I-95 and keep us on schedule,” Shapiro said on Twitter.

A person views the scene of a collapsed elevated section of Interstate 95, Tuesday, June 13, 2023, in Philadelphia.

The state’s transportation department also trucked in 2,000 tons of lightweight recycled glass nuggets to fill in the collapsed area, NBC 10 News reported.

The department told the news outlet they worked to avoid supply-chain delays for other materials. Crews are still working on a replacement bridge that will be built next to I-95 to reroute traffic while workers excavate the area around the exit ramp, officials told NBC 10.

This screen grab from video provided by WPVI-TV/6ABC shows the collapsed section of I-95 as crews continue to work on the scene in Philadelphia, Monday, June 12, 2023.

President Joe Biden joined 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.’’

The 24-hour construction work was live-streamed, drawing thousands of viewers online, in what the Philadelphia Inquirer called a “the sleeper hit of the season.”

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