By Samuel O’Neal
A damaged stretch of Interstate 95 in Northeast Philadelphia will be reopened by the weekend, Gov. Josh Shapiro vowed Tuesday.
“Based on the tremendous progress we have made over the last 72 hours and the time it takes for the remaining steps, I can confidently state right here, right now that traffic will be flowing here on I-95 this weekend,” Shapiro said during a Tuesday news conference.
It was originally reported that the project would take up to two months to repair. On June 17, Shapiro announced that I-95 would be opened within two weeks. Tuesday’s announcement marks the second time Shapiro has announced the overpass would be repaired ahead of schedule.
Although the interstate will be operational this weekend, it is a temporary fix, Shapiro said. He expects to outline detailed plans regarding a permanent fix in the coming months.
“As soon as we get this reopened, then we will be happy to give you a timeline on the permanent bridge fix,” Shapiro said.
Starting this weekend, there will be three operational northbound lanes as well as three more operational southbound lanes. While that’s happening, the bridge will be rebuilt from the outside in. There will be no disruption to traffic and there will be six fully functional lanes at all times, Shapiro said.
The announcement comes eight days after Shapiro signed a disaster declaration, clearing the way for aid and assistance to start flowing to the site.
Shapiro still had no update on the cost of the fix, but said the federal government will provide whatever Pennsylvania needs to repair I-95 and will cover the cost of the project.
“The bottom line is the federal government, the president and (U.S. Transportation) Secretary (Pete) Buttigieg have made clear that they cover the full cost,” Shapiro said. “As soon as we have a full cost, we’ll be happy to share that with you or our federal partners will.”
Shapiro was joined by state Transportation Secretary Mike Carroll, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and members of the Philadelphia Building Trades.
Carroll said the glass aggregate used to rebuild the overpass is not new, and that it has been used in Pennsylvania for “seven or eight years.” Beyond Pennsylvania, the glass aggregate has also been used in Maine, Rhode Island, New Jersey, Virginia and Arizona, he said.
“Those states, like Pennsylvania, recognize the quality of the product and its uses in certain applications like this,” Carroll said. “In fact, in Rhode Island, the application there was to a depth greater than what’s behind me. Each one of those panels that are being raised and set on that structure weighs about 13,000 pounds.”
Shapiro wrapped up the press conference by thanking Philadelphians for their positive reception of the 24/7 live feed of the construction of the bridge.
“There’s a sense of civic pride,” Shapiro said. “They’re cheering for these folks that work with” Laborers’ District Council of Philadelphia Business Manager Ryan Boyer. “I’m proud that they’re getting to see what I know about these guys – that they are the most excellent workers in the nation.”
Samuel O’Neal is a summer intern for the Pennsylvania Legislative Correspondents Association. The story originally appeared in the Pennsylvania Capital-Star.