I-95 Bridge Repair: How NASCAR Helped Speed Things Along

Pocono Raceway’s Jet Dryer Will Help New Asphalt Dry Quicker
Damaged section of I-95 in Philadelphia
Aerial view of the damaged section of I-95 in Philadelphia the day after the fire and collapse. (WPVI-TV/6ABC via AP)

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PHILADELPHIA — The race to reopen a stretch of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia is getting a boost from a truck-mounted jet dryer that’s normally used to keep moisture off the track at the Pocono Raceway.

A vehicle-mounted, kerosene-fueled turbine arrived June 22 at the scene of the June 11 fire at an underpass. Both directions of the heavily traveled interstate have been closed, pinching off traffic on the East Coast’s main north-south highway.

Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said this week he expects a temporary fix to be in place so traffic can resume in the coming days, but with rain in the forecast the NASCAR track’s jet dryer is expected to help by getting the asphalt dry enough for lines to be painted.

A PennDOT spokeswoman said the idea came from Transportation Secretary Mike Carroll, a former state lawmaker who represented a district near the racetrack in Long Pond, about 100 miles north of Philadelphia. Carroll got in touch with a contact at the Pocono Raceway and they agreed to make it available.

Raceway President Ben May said he isn’t charging the state for use of the dryer.

“Absolutely not,” May said June 22, calling it “a very, very, very small contribution to the spectacular work that’s being done by a lot of people.”

Paving began June 21 and was ongoing at midday June 22. PennDOT Press Secretary Alexis Campbell said the machinery, which blows air at 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit, will be used to dry the fresh asphalt right before highway lines are painted on it.

Although Shapiro has said the roadway will reopen this weekend, rain in the forecast is making the timing uncertain.

A northbound section of the elevated highway collapsed after a tractor-trailer hauling gasoline flipped and caught fire. The driver was killed and the resulting damage required demolition of the southbound lanes as well. A replacement bridge will eventually be constructed.

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