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Long commutes start after part of I-95 collapses in Philadelphia following tanker truck fire

by Madison Thomas
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I-95 collapse

Following a fiery incident involving a tanker truck carrying flammable cargo, a section of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia collapsed, resulting in longer commutes for drivers. The elevated portion of the East Coast’s primary north-south highway suffered significant damage, leading to its indefinite closure. Newscasts warned of traffic congestion and advised drivers to consider alternative routes and allow for more travel time.

AAA spokesperson Jana Tidwell expressed concerns about the widespread impact of the incident, stating that it would have a ripple effect throughout the region. Tidwell advised people to avoid peak travel hours to minimize disruptions. Additionally, she anticipated that drivers would incur extra expenses due to increased gasoline consumption, additional wear and tear on their vehicles, and toll charges when crossing between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

In response to the situation, the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority announced the operation of three extra morning and late afternoon trains on the Trenton, New Jersey, line. They also increased the capacity of regularly scheduled lines during peak hours to support the travel needs of the city and the region affected by the collapse.

Transportation officials warned of significant delays, street closures, and advised drivers to steer clear of the affected area in the northeast corner of the city. The tanker involved in the incident was carrying a petroleum product, potentially several hundred gallons of gasoline. It took approximately an hour to bring the fire under control.

Derek Bowmer, battalion chief of the Philadelphia Fire Department, reported that the northbound lanes of I-95 had vanished, while the southbound lanes were compromised by the heat of the fire. Runoff from the fire or damaged gas lines likely triggered underground explosions.

According to state Transportation Department spokesman Brad Rudolph, a collision occurred on a ramp beneath the northbound section of I-95 around 6:15 a.m., which swiftly led to the collapse of the overlying roadway. A massive concrete slab from I-95 fell onto the road below.

Governor Josh Shapiro, who surveyed the area from a flight, expressed relief that no motorists on I-95 were injured or killed. He described the devastation as remarkable. The collapsed segment of I-95 had undergone a reconstruction project worth $212 million, which was completed four years prior, as noted by Rudolph.

Motorists were rerouted on a 43-mile detour on Sunday, which surprisingly experienced less congestion compared to weekdays. Rudolph attributed this to the collapse occurring on a Sunday. The affected section of I-95 carries approximately 160,000 vehicles per day and is likely Pennsylvania’s busiest interstate.

Governor Shapiro assured that federal funds would be swiftly provided by U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg to rebuild the critical roadway. However, Shapiro acknowledged that the complete reconstruction of I-95 would take several months. In the interim, officials were exploring temporary solutions to reconnect both sides of the highway and facilitate traffic flow in the area.

The National Transportation Safety Board announced the dispatch of a team to investigate the fire and collapse. Authorities were also concerned about potential environmental ramifications due to runoff into the nearby Delaware River. The Coast Guard deployed a boom to contain any material observed in the river, but Ensign Josh Ledoux stated that the contents of the tanker, which had a capacity of 8,500 gallons, did not appear to be spreading into the environment.

This incident bore a striking resemblance to a previous fire in Philadelphia back in March 1996 when an illegal tire dump under I-95 caught fire, resulting in melted guardrails and buckled pavement.

Contributors to this report: Mark Scolforo in Harrisburg, Pennsylvania; Jake Offenhartz in New York; and Kathy McCormack in Concord, New Hampshire, for Big Big News.

Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) about I-95 collapse

Q: What caused the collapse of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia?

A: The collapse was caused by a fire that occurred due to a tanker truck carrying flammable cargo. The heat from the fire compromised the structure of the elevated highway, leading to its collapse.

Q: Is Interstate 95 completely closed following the collapse?

A: Yes, the affected section of Interstate 95 is indefinitely closed. Both the northbound and southbound lanes have been impacted, making the highway inaccessible for travel.

Q: How will the collapse affect commuters?

A: Commuters can expect longer travel times and increased congestion due to the closure of this major north-south highway. Detours and alternative routes are being suggested, but delays and disruptions are anticipated throughout the region.

Q: How long will it take to rebuild Interstate 95?

A: The complete rebuild of Interstate 95 is estimated to take several months. In the meantime, transportation officials are exploring interim solutions to restore traffic flow and connect both sides of the highway.

Q: Will there be any financial implications for drivers?

A: Drivers can expect additional costs, including more expenditure on gasoline, increased wear and tear on their vehicles, and potential toll charges when crossing between Pennsylvania and New Jersey.

Q: What environmental concerns have arisen from the incident?

A: Authorities are concerned about the environmental impact of runoff from the fire into the nearby Delaware River. Efforts are being made to contain any potential materials in the river to prevent further contamination.

Q: Are there any similarities to previous incidents?

A: The collapse of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia bears resemblance to a previous fire in 1996 when an illegal tire dump under the highway caught fire, resulting in similar damage to the infrastructure.

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