I-95 reopening: Crews to use NASCAR jet dryer to aid during upcoming rainy stretch

I-95 is set to reopen Friday at noon, per FOX 29 sources, less than two weeks after a gasoline tanker crash and fire caused the roadway to collapse.

Shapiro and PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll lauded the "round the clock" work of road crews to complete the expedited project ahead of schedule. 

A section of the northbound lanes of the elevated highway collapsed early June 11 after a tractor-trailer hauling gasoline flipped over on an off-ramp and caught fire. State transportation officials said the driver, who was killed, lost control around a curve. The resulting damage necessitated demolition of the southbound lanes as well, officials said.

Pennsylvania’s plan for a quick interim fix has involved trucking in 2,000 tons of lightweight recycled glass nuggets to fill in the collapsed area, avoiding supply-chain delays for other materials, officials said. After that, a replacement bridge will be built next to it to reroute traffic while crews excavate the fill to restore the exit ramp, officials said.

Shapiro said Tuesday that crews had completed pouring the aggregate into the gap to build it up to the level of the rest of the highway, and cranes were now lifting large outer barriers into place. After that, crews would begin paving and striping three lanes in each direction, he said.

"This weekend, our commuters will finally be able to set their Monday morning alarm clocks back to the regular time, because they won't have to spend extra time in detours," the governor said.

Pennsylvania's secretary of transportation, Michael Carroll, said he wanted to address questions online about the recycled glass aggregate, which he said had been in use in Pennsylvania for seven or eight years and was in fact under sections of I-95 already. He said it was also being used in several other states.

"I have 100 percent confidence in its ability to withstand the traffic that's on that facility once we open it," Carroll said. "... It’s safe, it’s sound, it’s ready to go to work." 

Shapiro joined Good Day Philadelphia to discuss the continued progress on the roadway and a "super cool solution" to the rain in the forecast delaying an opening of the highway.

"We need, sort of, patches of dry time in order to complete paving and really more importantly, the striping process. So, get this. We reached out to our friends at Pocono Raceway and I'm a big NASCAR guy, so is our amazing PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll," Shapiro said. "They are bringing in today, the jet dryer that's used along the Pocono Raceway track to jet dry this section of I-95 to allow us to do the paving and striping together."

President Joe Biden, visiting the site with the governor Saturday, called the design "incredibly innovative." He said he had told the governor that there was "no more important project right now in the country," and federal officials have promised to quickly supply whatever aid is needed to complete the project as rapidly as possible.

Shapiro said the repair work would cost an estimated $25 million to $30 million, and the federal government at the highest levels had committed to cover the full cost. He said he would have a timeline on the completion of the permanent repairs once that project begins.

The president said Saturday he knew how important the highway was to Philadelphia and the Northeast Corridor, carrying more than 150,000 vehicles, including 14,000 trucks, every day. "It’s critical to our economy, and it’s critical to our quality of life,’’ he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.