I-95 collapses in Philadelphia after fire; motorists headed north from Maryland advised to plan alternate routes

21


Motorists can expect ongoing delays on Interstate 95 north of the Maryland-Delaware border after a roadway collapsed during a vehicle fire in northeast Philadelphia on Sunday morning, shutting down the highway in both directions. The delays on the East Coast’s primary north-south artery could affect travel to and from Maryland for days.

A tankertruck carrying flammable cargocaught fire around 6:20 a.m. underneath a northbound overpass for the Cottman Avenue exit, causing it to collapse.

All lanes in both directions of I-95 are closed between the Woodhaven and Aramingo exits in Philadelphia. The collapse occurred in the northbound span of the interstate. The southbound span is compromised, officials said. Transportation authorities warned motorists of extensive delays and street closures, urging drivers to avoid the area in the northeast corner of the city.

Officials said there were no immediate reports of injuries, but Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said Sunday evening that at least one vehicle was still trapped beneath the collapsed roadway. The fire was reported to be under control.

The Maryland Department of Emergency Management said the incident could impact travel in the state.

“While this took place outside of Maryland, it could impact your travel if you are headed toward the Philadelphia area or planning to use I95. Stay safe,” the agency tweeted.

The Maryland State Highway Administration advised motorists travelingnorth to plan alternate routes.

A Maryland Transportation Authority spokesperson said the agency is “actively monitoring the situation” alongside the SHA, and suggested motorists in Maryland use US-40 as an alternate for I-95 traffic.

“As the situation progresses, recommended routes may change,” spokesperson Kelly Mundle said, adding that motorists should follow posted detour signs.

Debris is seen at the collapsed portion of I-95 in Philadelphia, on Sunday. A truck fire and partial road collapse have closed Interstate 95 in both directions in Northeast Philadelphia. (Monica Herndon/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP)
Debris is seen at the collapsed portion of I-95 in Philadelphia, on Sunday. A truck fire and partial road collapse have closed Interstate 95 in both directions in Northeast Philadelphia. (Monica Herndon/The Philadelphia Inquirer via AP) (Monica Herndon/AP)

A crash of some kind occurred on a ramp underneath northbound I-95 around 6:15 a.m. The northbound section above the fire collapsed quickly, PennsylvaniaDepartment of Transportation spokesperson Brad Rudolph said.

Video from the scene showed a massive concrete slab had fallen from I-95 onto the road below.

A column of black smoke was on the southbound span of the interstate, emergency services said in a tweet. Fuel runoff from gas lines or from the accident caused underground explosions that shot flames up from maintenance holes, Derek Bowmer, a battalion chief with the Philadelphia Fire Department, said at a news conference.

“The roadway is gone,” said Dominick Mireles, a spokesperson for the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management, at a news conference.

Officials work on the scene following a collapse on I-95 after a truck fire on Sunday in Philadelphia.
Officials work on the scene following a collapse on I-95 after a truck fire on Sunday in Philadelphia. (Joe Lamberti/AP)

The southbound lanes were heavily damaged, “and we are assessing that now,” Rudolph said Sunday afternoon.

There was no immediate time frame for reopening the highway, but Rudolph said officials would consider “a fill-in situation or a temporary structure” to accelerate the effort. Shapiro said a complete rebuild would take “some number of months to complete,” but officials are looking at interim solutions to get traffic through the area.

Motorists were sent on a 43-mile detour, which was going “better than it would do on a weekday,” Rudolph said. The fact that the collapse happened on a Sunday helped ease congestion.

He expected traffic “to back up significantly on all the detour areas.”

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said he was in contact with leaders from Philadelphia and Pennsylvania, and the Federal Highway Administration asked surrounding states to alert drivers.

This screen grab from video provided by WPVI-TV/6ABC shows the collapsed section of I-95 with firetrucks on the scene in Philadelphia on Sunday.
This screen grab from video provided by WPVI-TV/6ABC shows the collapsed section of I-95 with firetrucks on the scene in Philadelphia on Sunday. (Uncredited/AP)

”This is a major artery for people and goods, and the closure will have significant impacts on the city and region until reconstruction and recovery are complete,” Buttigieg said in a social media post. “Our department will be there with support throughout the process of I-95 returning to normal.”

Shapiro said he had spoken to Buttigieg and was assured there would be “absolutely no delay” in getting federal funds quickly to rebuild the roadway segment, which Pennsylvania Transportation Secretary Michael Carroll said carries roughly 160,000 vehicles a week.

The National Transportation Safety Board said it was sending a team to investigate the fire and ensuing collapse.

Most drivers traveling the I-95 corridor between Delaware and New York City use the New Jersey Turnpike rather than the segment of interstate where the collapse occurred.

Thousands of tons of steel and concrete were piled atop the site of the fire, and heavy construction equipment will need to be transported to the area to start removing the debris, Mireles said. Officials said they were also concerned about the environmental impacts of runoff into the nearby Delaware River.

The Coast Guard deployed a boom to contain material seen nearby on the Delaware River. Ensign Josh Ledoux said the tanker had a capacity of 8,500 gallons and that its contents were not spreading into the environment.

Source: Baltimore Sun