Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro discusses plans to rebuild and reopen a collapsed section of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia during a news conference on Wednesday, June 14, 2023 (Commonwealth Media Services Photo).
Gov. Josh Shapiro on Wednesday released details of the state’s plan to reopen and rebuild a collapsed section of Interstate 95 in Northeast Philadelphia, vowing an “all hands on deck” approach to the project.
“From the first moments, you have seen all levels of government, local, state and federal, working together to get this done,” Shapiro said. “I said we’d be all hands on deck. I want you to know we are all synced up and we are all working effectively together.”
In a statement, Shapiro’s office said the demolition of the damaged portion of the roadway is expected to be completed by Thursday, ahead of schedule, and that the “administration, engineers, and contractors have developed a plan to safely and quickly reopen the roadway.”
The new project will include three lanes in each direction in the center area of the void, as well as a new facility on both sides of the outer area of the bridge that will not impact the traffic that flows on the three lanes. Once those are completed, the lanes will transition the traffic to the completed new structure and the exit ramp will be reopened.
Shapiro did not give a timeline for the process, but he has previously said it likely will take months, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported.
The construction plans come just days after Shapiro signed a proclamation of disaster emergency, clearing the way for aid and assistance to start flowing to the site.
Shapiro was joined at the news conference by state Transportation Secretary Mike Carroll, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney, Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Bhatt, members of the Philadelphia Building Trades and other official
The cost is still being determined, but Shapiro said the federal government will provide whatever Pennsylvania needs to repair I-95 and said they will cover the cost. Shapiro also said both President Joe Biden and U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg have been great partners in the process.
“We have a full accounting of the cost and we will have every dollar we need to get this done,” Shapiro said. “I also signed a disaster declaration which freed up $7 million in immediate state money.”
Pennsylvania State Police will give an escort from Delaware County to trucks carrying specially designed, Pennsylvania-made fill from recycled glass aggregate to make sure the fill arrives as quickly as possible, Shapiro said.
“State police are going to make sure those trucks get through without delay,” Shapiro said. “All hands on deck. Getting I-95 reopened and repaired as safely and as efficiently as possible, it’s our top priority. We cut through the red tape, we’ve developed a creative plan and we are executing under the leadership of Secretary Carroll.”
The disaster occurred early Sunday morning when a tanker truck caught fire under I-95 near the Cottman Avenue exit in Northeast Philadelphia and caused a portion of the highway to collapse.
Despite experts predicting that the demolition of the bridge could take more than a week, the city is preparing to finish the demolition by Thursday, Shapiro said.
“We are going to show this great city, our Commonwealth and the world the grittiness, the toughness, the ingenuity and the capacity to get this road reopened as quickly as possible,” Shapiro said. “I want you to know we are already making progress.”
There will also be a 24/7 live feed of the construction, allowing Pennsylvania residents to watch the construction of the bridge in real-time, Shapiro said.
Kenney wrapped up the press conference by commending Shapiro and his administration, saying they developed an immediate coordinated response and quickly worked around the clock to create detours and support for commuters, travelers, residents and local businesses affected by the disaster.
“When you are sleeping in the middle of the night, when I’m sleeping in the middle of the night, these guys are going to be working on this road,” Shapiro said. “When some of you choose to take a day and go down the shore, they’re going to be working on this road 24/7 until this road is reopened. And I want you to know my administration is going to be all hands on deck.”
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