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I-95 Collapse Will Severely Impact Trucking

Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said truck drivers will need to get creative in finding routes to navigate around the collapsed area on I-95.

On June 11 a portion of Philadelphia’s I-95 collapsed after a trucking accident caused structural failure of the interstate. This catastrophic event caused local leaders to raise alarms about the delays freight shipments will face during the monthslong plan to rebuild the region.

“Trucks will have to take a longer and more costly route to where they’re going,” Buttigieg said June 13 during a press conference from the accident site. “I know America’s truck drivers. They are creative. They find ways to adapt. They are resilient.”

Buttigieg also sent praise to those working behind the scenes to help control traffic and keep the roads moving.

“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.”

The overpass collapsed after a tanker truck carrying gasoline caught fire under the overpass. The heat from the fire caused the steel supporting the overpass to collapse. 

“This was an enormously intense fire,” Buttigieg said. “The result of that much heat and that much fuel burning was, of course, what compromised this structure.”

The damage occurred between Exits 30 and 32, closed in both directions, engineers are currently clearing the damaged area and planning a reconstruction phase for the roadway.

Due to the road closure, drivers are given two detour options, one involving a 60-stoplight detour along the U.S. Highway 1, and the other being to utilize local Philadelphia roads.

To expedite repairs, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro proclaimed a disaster emergency June 12 to immediately free $7 million in funds for reconstruction.

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.”

“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 asks that companies use their best judgment given the information available,” she commented.

Oyler noted some PMTA members are directing their 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.”

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