Officials celebrate reopening of I-95

Nearly two weeks after a portion of I-95 collapsed in Philadelphia, the stretch has reopened to traffic. 

Philadelphia first responders and construction crews, along with Philadelphia sports mascots were the first to drive over the new roadway.

PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll says teams have been working on the rebuilding process and thinking outside of the box to get the interstate back open. 

>> I-95 Philadelphia collapse: What you need to know about the damaged highway, reconstruction

"We, PennDOT, have approached this challenge and our partners in the city, we wanted to think outside the box. We wanted to make sure that we employed every strategy we could think of to try and get I-95 open in both directions," Carroll said. 

Here's what you need to know about the temporary lanes that make up the roadway: 

What is the roadway made of? 

The roadway is made up of high-tech, lightweight and durable aggregate created by AeroAggregates in Eddystone. The company's CEO, Archie Filshill, says the product is basically fake rock that is made out of 100% recycled glass that is crushed. 

>> I-95 collapse: Delaware County company creating material to help in temporary rebuild of I-95

Carroll says the product has been in use in Pennsylvania for seven or eight years and is already under some sections of the interstate. 

How long did it take crews to build the temporary lanes? 

A portion of the northbound lanes collapsed on the morning of June 11 after a tractor-trailer with thousands of gallons of gasoline flipped over on an off-ramp and caught fire, killing the driver. The damage from the flames caused the necessary demolition of the adjacent southbound lanes. 

Aid from local and federal partners came in quickly, making the clean-up and reconstruction process swift. 

According to officials, the cleanup and assessment of damage took four days, while the rebuild took eight days. 

>> I-95 collapse: Transportation Secretary Buttigieg vows federal help to fix damaged interstate 

The interstate was initially set to reopen over the weekend, but crews worked ahead of schedule to help the roadway open early. 

>> I-95 rebuild: Collapsed Philadelphia interstate to reopen this weekend, Gov. Shapiro says

How will crews keep working on the temporary lanes in the rain? 

The Delaware Valley is set to see a stretch of rainy days that could impact the progress of the permanent roadway. 

>> I-95 reconstruction: Crews to use NASCAR jet dryer to finish construction during upcoming rainy stretch

To combat the inclement weather and continue working on the interstate, the Shapiro Administration has enlisted the help of Ricky Durst and the Pocono Raceway. 

A NASCAR jet dryer, a high-powered jet engine that is used to dry NASCAR tracks, from Pocono Raceway was sent to the I-95 construction site so crews can dry the pavement and painted lines, officials announced Wednesday. 

"Pocono Raceway is thrilled to answer the call that went out yesterday from Secretary Carroll on behalf of the Shapiro Administration," Ricky Durst, the Senior Director of Marketing & Analytics for Pocono Raceway, said. 

Durst says the in ideal situations, the dryer stays in the garage on-site, but it is used to keep tracks dry after rain.

"It's a jet engine. It's going to blow out about 1400 degrees Fahrenheit. It has about 3,000 pounds of force," Durst said. "As the secretary said, it's buckled into a Chevy Silverado. So, it's a little bit of a Frankenstein thing, but it's also pretty specialized and it's used throughout the NASCAR industry to keep things dry and keep things safe." 

According to Durst, the jet dryer will be used to make sure the asphalt is dry so that lines can be painted onto the roadway. 

What will the new temporary stretch look like? 

The view from SKYFOX shows the progress made on I-95 as officials prepare to reopen the roadway in just a few days. 

Carroll says the lanes on I-95 will go from four to three over the temporary lanes. 

Additionally, the new temporary lanes will have a reduced speed limit of 45 miles per hour. 

"We'd ask folks to be extra careful and so that we can all continue not to have to use these detours as we go forward. The lines are 11-feet wide. A traditional lane is 12 feet, but it is very common in work zones to have an 11-foot wide lane," Carroll said. "It's not ideal, but it's the best that we can do and it does provide a safe traveling option for the motoring public." 

The changeover from four lanes to three will begin about one mile before the temporary lanes. 

How safe is the area where the temporary lanes are? 

According to Carroll, in addition to the lowered speed limit, PennDOT crews made sure all lights in the area are functioning. 

"We've taken the opportunity while the road was closed to repair all the lights and to make sure that we had the shoulders cleaned up as much as we could," he said. "So the reality is, we've taken every step possible to try and make the transition as safe as possible." 

There is no weight restriction on the roadway, officials say.

Firefighters who responded to the tanker fire under the interstate on June 11 were given the honor of being the first to ride over the new temporary northbound lanes on the highway. 

Shapiro, Carroll and Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney held a press conference on Friday morning with local first responders and crew members who worked to complete the new temporary lanes. 

Before the press conference began, FOX 29 captured the moment Shapiro spoke with President Biden on the phone. Biden congratulated Shapiro on a job well done getting the collapsed stretch of the interstate rebuilt in less than two weeks. The president also shouted out the work of construction crews who worked day and night regardless of the weather and holidays to complete the project. 

In a statement from the White House, President Biden said: 

"When I visited Philadelphia on Saturday and met with local officials and union workers, I made clear: my Administration would move heaven and earth to reopen I-95 as soon as possible. Thanks to the grit and determination of operating engineers, laborers, cement finishers, carpenters, teamsters, and so many other proud union workers doing shifts around the clock, I-95 is reopening. And it's ahead of schedule." 

Carroll thanked the residents of Philadelphia for their cooperation in using detours and adjusting travel times as crews worked on the interstate. He's asking commuters to drive slowly and carefully in the new zones as construction crews will continue working in the area to build a more permanent roadway for the area. 

The Associated Press contributed to this report.