June 12, 2023: A team of federal investigators has initiated an inquiry into the collapse of an Interstate 95 overpass in Philadelphia following a tanker truck fire. The incident has caused significant damage to a crucial section of the East Coast’s main highway, which could take several months to repair.
The investigators are at the scene, closely monitoring the emergency response. Their primary focus will be on the 8,500-gallon-capacity tanker truck, which will be thoroughly examined as part of the investigation, according to Jennifer Homendy, the head of the National Transportation Safety Board.
Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro is expected to declare a disaster on Monday, enabling the state to access federal funds and expedite the repair process by cutting through bureaucratic obstacles. Interstate 95 carries approximately 160,000 vehicles daily through the city, making it one of the busiest highways in the region.
It remains uncertain if anyone, including the driver, was trapped in the burning truck. The tanker was transporting gasoline to a local Wawa gas station. Jennifer Homendy emphasized the need to assess the tanker truck’s condition to determine what happened, as there are multiple potential scenarios. Investigators will also consider the structural integrity of the bridge.
Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg has expressed readiness to assist local authorities in promptly addressing the extensive disruption caused by the collapse. However, he emphasized that the repairs would take time due to the scale of the structural work required.
Fortunately, no injuries or fatalities from the highway collapse have been reported. Governor Shapiro expressed relief that no motorists on Interstate 95 were harmed but acknowledged the significant devastation witnessed during an aerial inspection of the scene.
The northbound lanes have collapsed, and the southbound lanes have suffered damage due to the intense fire, rendering them structurally unsound for traffic. Restoring the highway is expected to be a lengthy process, and officials are exploring alternative routes beyond the detours.
Representative Brendan Boyle, whose district encompasses the affected section of the highway, highlighted the significant impact on millions of people residing in one of the country’s largest population centers.
All lanes of Interstate 95 between the Woodhaven and Aramingo exits are closed, with some surrounding streets also inaccessible due to the ongoing emergency response. Drivers heading southbound can follow alternate routes via Route 63 West, US 1 South, I-76 East, and I-676 East. For northbound drivers, the detour involves I-676 West, I-76 West, US 1 North, and Route 63 East.
The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority (SEPTA) is implementing additional capacity and service on other transportation routes to assist travelers affected by the highway collapse. SEPTA, one of the largest public transportation agencies in the US, is evaluating all available options to minimize the impact on commuters.
Transportation Secretary Buttigieg has assured officials of immediate federal assistance for repairs and reconstruction. Governor Shapiro expressed confidence in receiving federal funds promptly to rebuild this critical roadway, emphasizing its importance to the economy and people’s daily lives.
The fire, which caused the collapse, erupted around 6:20 a.m., engulfing a section of the northbound I-95 highway. The cause of the fire is also under investigation.
As of Sunday afternoon, the fire was contained, although firefighters remained on-site as a precaution due to the substantial volume of the involved product, as stated by Philadelphia Fire Department Deputy Commissioner Jeffrey Thompson.
Crews worked tirelessly throughout the night to clear the debris from the collapsed section of the road.
Authorities have advised residents to avoid the area and anticipate delays in trash collection and bus routes within the affected vicinity.