How Collapsed Section of I-95 Will Be Fixed

Demolition Ahead of Schedule, Expected to Be Complete Thursday
Damaged section of I-95
A person looks at the damaged section of I-95 in Philadelphia. (Matt Slocum/Associated Press)

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Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said June 14 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 June 11 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 long and 150 feet 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.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro

Shapiro by Joe Lambert/Associated Press 

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 June 15, and trucks hauling aggregate could arrive the same day, officials said.

The company supplying the glass aggregate, AeroAggregates of North America, has a production site just south of Philadelphia along the Delaware River. There, it mills glass bottles and jars diverted from landfills into a powder and heats it into a foam to produce small, lightweight nuggets that are gray and look like rocks — but are as light as Styrofoam, said CEO Archie Filshill.

Each one is about an inch or inch-and-a-half wide.

Filshill estimated that it will take about 100 box-truck loads to haul about 10,000 cubic yards (7,600 cubic meters) of the glass nuggets required for the I-95 project. The total weight is around 2,000 tons, a fraction of the weight of regular sand or dirt, meaning that it will take many fewer trucks to bring it to the site, Filshill said.

AeroAggregates illustration

The company says its foamed glass aggregates possess a highly frictional surface that make it ideal as a lightweight backfill. (AeroAggregates)

PennDOT was the first to use his company's product after he began making it in 2017, and it is now approved for use by 23 state transportation departments around the country, Filshill said. AeroAggregates will divert material bound for other, less urgent projects to the I-95 project, he 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 to 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.

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Police say the driver died in the accident. The Philadelphia medical examiner identified him June 13 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.