Local and federal officials surveyed damage Monday from an Interstate 95 highway collapse in Philadelphia that is forcing drivers to find alternative routes around one of the busiest interstates in the nation. As crews began to clean up the disaster, the Pennsylvania governor said Monday it could take months to rebuild that section of highway.
The elevated highway's collapse was caused when a tanker truck hauling 8,500 gallons of gasoline crashed beneath it and caught fire. The deadly crash happened sometime Sunday morning before a portion of the highway collapsed at about 6:20 a.m., according to Gov. Josh Shapiro.
According to officials, the vehicle lost control while exiting the interstate, causing it to overturn and ignite underneath the I-95 overpass. Family members identified the driver, whose remains were found in the rubble as, Nathaniel Moody, 53, who drove for TK Transport, a small fleet in Pennsauken, New Jersey, that specializes in hauling fuel. According to FMCSA records, the fleet had no reported crashes over the previous 24 months.
Philadelphia city officials are attempting to help drivers navigate the road closure, which has no "perfect" alternate routes, according to Matt Pellman, a Philadelphia Action News traffic reporter. The city offered four alternate ways to get around the damage, according to Roads and Bridges, a FleetOwner affiliate.
All lanes of I-95 are closed between the Woodhaven and Aramingo exits, the city of Philadelphia said. Some surrounding streets are also closed for the emergency response.
“Demolition of the collapsed bridges has begun and detours are in place,” Pennsylvania Department of Transportation (PennDOT) said in a release. “A more exact timeline for the complete rebuilding of the I-95 roadway should be available in the coming days once the engineers complete their review.”
The 44th most congested trucking bottleneck in the U.S. is a few miles south of the damage, according to the American Transportation Research Institute's 2023 Top 100 Truck Bottlenecks. The I-95/I-476 junction is one of four bottlenecks in Philadelphia that made ATRI's 2023 list.
Shapiro issued a disaster emergency proclamation over the collapse, which will help PennDOT officials use federal funds and assistance to expedite repairs on the roadway that sees some 160,000 vehicles pass over it each day. During a news conference on Monday, Shapiro said the repairs could take "a number of months."
Federal Highway Administration leaders were on the scene in Philadelphia on Monday to review the damage and meet with state and local officials to start planning highway reconstruction. According to officials, the intense tanker fire below the overpass caused the northbound I-95 lanes to collapse and damaged the southbound side of the highway.
The 1,924-mile I-95 runs along the entire Eastern Seaboard, from Maine to Florida. It is the longest north-south interstate in the U.S., passing through 15 states and the District of Columbia. It connects to more than 25 significant seaports and serves about 40% of the country's gross domestic product, according to the Eastern Transportation Coalition.