Early Sunday morning, Jun 11, 2023 a tanker trunk caught fire along an elevated section of interstate I-95 in Philadelphia causing a portion of the highway to collapse.
What We Know
The mayhem began around 6:20am Sunday morning when reports came in of a vehicle fire beneath an overpass at the Cottman Avenue exit of I-95.
No injuries or fatalities were immediately reported. However, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney reported that while no fatalities were initially reported, the situation is “still fluid”.
Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro stated in a press conference Sunday afternoon, that a vehicle is trapped in the rubble of the disastrous collapse and it is possible that at least one person is still stuck in the vehicle.
The highway is indefinitely closed in both directions between the Woodhaven and Aramingo exits as officials mitigate the situation.
Retired Philadelphia police sergeant, Mark Fusetti, was driving south towards the Philadelphia Airport when he noticed thick, black smoke rising over the highway. The road beneath began to “dip” as he was passing the fire. In a video posted to Fusetti’s Twitter account, you can see a noticeable depression.
What Caused The Collapse?
Shapiro told reporters Sunday afternoon that a commercial truck carrying a petroleum-based product may have been the source.
The current theory is that the tanker truck caught fire while beneath the highway overpass. The fire and high heat subsequently spread to the elevated lanes above causing them to buckle, melt, and then collapse.
Around the same time as the fire, neighbors in the Tacony and surrounding areas reported hearing explosions later identified as manholes in the area. The manhole explosions are believed to have been caused by gasoline runoff or the compromise of fuel lines.
No Hazard To Drinking Water
During his aerial tour, Governor Shapiro described seeing a slight sheen on the waterway right near the collapse. However, the water has been deemed safe to drink. According to Brendan Riley, director of operations for the Philadelphia Water Department, “currently at this time we have no concerns of impact on our Baxter Drinking Water Treatment Plant”.
The Coast Guard has been working with the Pa. Dept. of Environmental Protection on mitigation efforts.
President Joe Biden Briefed
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre has confirmed that President Joe Biden has been briefed on the situation. President Biden has been in touch with both Mayor Kenney and Governor Shapiro’s offices to offer assistance.
Gov. Josh Shapiro said Sunday evening he planned to issue a disaster declaration Monday to speed federal funds.
How Long Will The Repairs Take?
The collapse has already caused major traffic delays in the area and motorists will have to buckle up for more to come. The repairs to the collapsed section of the freeway will likely take weeks, if not months, to complete. Indeed, motorists will have to get use to longer commutes.
The conditions are expected to worsen as the work week begins on Monday morning as commuters will be forced to take alternate routes.
Upwards of 130,000 vehicles drive daily on the portion of I-95 that swings past Center City, according to PennDOT traffic volume data.
Detours and Alternatives
PennDOT shared the following detour information:
- I-95 Southbound: Route 63 West (Woodhaven Road), U.S. 1 South, 76 East, 676 East
- I-95 Northbound: I-676 West, I-76 West, U.S. 1 North to Route 63 East (Woodhaven Road)
Motorists are encouraged to plan their Monday morning commute by avoiding the area altogether, accessing the detour route, or taking public transportation. SEPTA has announced it is adding service on the Trenton, West Trenton and Fox Chase Regional Rail lines.
Traffic will indeed be congested over the next few weeks. Bus routes and trash collection are also expected to be delayed as a result of the calamity.
Stay Up-To-Date On The I-95 Collapse
Governor Shapiro has set up a website for updates on the collapse of I-95.
Philly has been having quite the week. After a code red air quality alert was declared due to the Canada wildfires, no one could have foreseen this current disaster.
Indeed, in true Philadelphia spirit, we will get through this! Hold on, Philly!