Temporary Road Planned for Ruined Stretch of I-95

Truckers Will Have to Take Longer Routes as Span Faces Lengthy Closure
Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro
“Our approach will allow us to avoid delays due to shipment and supply chain issues," says Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro. (Josh Shapiro via Twitter)

[Stay on top of transportation news: Get TTNews in your inbox.]

A downed stretch of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia will be covered with a temporary roadway that will permit two-way traffic to return to a segment of one of the country’s busiest freight routes, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro announced June 14. 

The affected highway overpass gave way June 11 after a tanker truck crossing underneath hauling a load of gasoline overturned and caught fire. The heat from the fire caused the steel supporting the overpass to collapse. The truck driver was killed in the crash. 

The round-the-clock repair initiative will involve backfilling and paving the gap in the roadway to return traffic to the site while a permanent bridge is built. Once the permanent structure is complete, the temporary one will be demolished and the backfill used in other projects, Shapiro said. 

“Our approach will allow us to avoid delays due to shipment and supply chain issues and pursue a simple, quicker path,” he said. “When complete, vehicles can return to this stretch of 95 as we work to rebuild a permanent bridge — while keeping six lanes of traffic flowing at all times.”

PennDot I-95 rendering

A rendering of the finished product once construction is complete on on the damaged section of I-95. (Pennsylvania Department of Transportation)

PennDOT’s plan is to build (in the middle section of I-95) three 11-foot temporary lanes for both north- and south-bound traffic while construction workers create a permanent outer bridge section first. Once completed, that outer permanent span will carry traffic.

Then construction workers will focus on building a permanent bridge section over the next parallel section where the temporary one span was and removed the backfill to be used on other projects. PennDOT has posted a graphic of the construction plan on its website.

Shapiro didn’t provide a  timeline for completion of the temporary segment.

The Department of Transportation contributed $3 million in immediate emergency relief funds to the effort, Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg announced June 15. The funds can be allocated to maintaining emergency operations and detour routes, demolition of the damaged structure and the emergency repairs to restore traffic, DOT said.

They also can help the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation move forward with preliminary engineering, surveys and design planning for permanent bridge span restoration.

Buttigieg during a June 13 press conference near the site said truck drivers will need to get resourceful in finding routes to navigate the area. 

“Trucks will have to take a longer and more costly route to where they’re going,” he said. “I know America’s truck drivers. They are creative. They find ways to adapt. They are resilient.”

He also praised those who will be working behind the scenes to ensure traffic keeps moving in the affected region.

“There’s going to be a lot of work, analysis and support going into making sure we make the most of alternative routes,” Buttigieg added. “I value the opportunity to be both on the ground and coordinating over the phone with everybody who’s involved in the response here.”

Livestream of work at the Philadelphia site

Shapiro on June 12 proclaimed a disaster emergency to immediately free $7 million in funds for reconstruction, and to authorize state personnel to tap into available resources for repair work. 

The damaged stretch of I-95 — between Exits 30 and 32 — is facing prolonged closure as engineers embark on the plan to build the temporary structure. Meantime, drivers are faced with options that include a 60-stoplight detour along U.S. Highway 1 or navigating Philadelphia’s local roads.

Rebecca Oyler


Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association CEO Rebecca Oyler told Transport Topics that an estimated 14,000 trucks cross this section of road daily. 

“To move all of that commercial truck traffic to PennDOT’s official detour route on U.S. 1 will greatly impact traffic and congestion,” Oyler said. “Our biggest concern in this is safety for our drivers. Disrupting routes and congestion often leads to crashes, and pushing commercial vehicles to roads not designed for trucks creates its own problems. Everyone passing through the region is having to manage additional traffic, and likely delays. PMTA has asked the state to consider these issues.” 

This stretch also is near the Port of Philadelphia, which handles 7.4 million tons of cargo annually.

“Trucks coming out of PhilaPort normally have direct access to I-95, but now headed north they have to navigate back streets through the city, many of which were, of course, not designed to accommodate trucks,” she explained. “It is a produce-heavy port, with refrigerated containers making up 54% of freight with about 1,500 reefer trucks a week — much of it going north to New York.”

PhilaPort announced that travel detours may impact its terminals. 

Oyler also noted that this section of I-95 is critical to Philadelphia-area businesses.
“Many of these businesses are struggling today to manage new supply chain issues,” she said. “They will need to work out longer-term solutions until this is resolved.”

PMTA also is working with the New Jersey Motor Truck Association since some traffic is being directed through the New Jersey Turnpike. Oyler stressed that diverting trucks along U.S. 1 — a road stacked with traffic lights and lacking in truck parking and facilities — isn’t ideal.

“There are many alternative routes around the city and around the region, but PennDOT has told us that — other than the official detour — they cannot suggest specific routes and ask that companies use their best judgment given the information available,” she commented.

Oyler noted some PMTA members are directing drivers to the tolled Pennsylvania Turnpike.
“Obviously, [this] comes with an added cost that some companies just can’t afford,” she noted. “We are working to determine if a toll-fee waiver is feasible in the coming days and weeks.”

Oyler echoed Buttigieg in praising the resiliency of truckers.

“Companies are constantly rolling with the punches to ensure goods in America get where they need to go,” she said. “We are proud of our members for handling this unideal situation with grace. The weight of managing America’s supply chain is something they don’t take lightly. These companies are doing what they need to do to get their loads where they need to be.”

Want more news? Listen to today's daily briefing below or go here for more info: