Major US highway could take months to repair after collapse

Drivers face prolonged commutes after a section of one of the largest East Coast transportation routes buckled and fell.

Backed-up traffic in the US city of Philadelphia
Traffic grinds to a standstill in a Philadelphia neighbourhood on June 12, 2023, one day after a highway collapsed due to a tanker truck fire [Matt Rourke/AP Photo]

The collapse of a major highway has resulted in bottlenecked traffic that could impact transportation routes throughout the eastern United States.

Drivers on Monday experienced prolonged commutes after a tanker truck caught fire and damaged a section of the I-95 Interstate in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, resulting in the temporary closure of one of the area’s busiest routes.

“This is really going to have a ripple effect throughout the region,” Jana Tidwell, a spokesperson for the American Automobile Association (AAA), said on Monday.

Officials have said it could take several months to repair the stretch of I-95 that collapsed on Sunday morning. A traffic map from the local news station 6abc Action News Philadelphia showed traffic in some areas at a near standstill.

The interstate is the main north-south highway on the East Coast, running from Miami, Florida, to the Canadian border in the northern state of Maine. About 160,000 vehicles use the currently closed section of the highway each day.

Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro has urged residents to seek out alternate routes, take public transportation or work from home if possible. The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority said it has increased capacity to help service extra commuters in the region.

Shapiro said he would make a disaster declaration on Monday, which would make federal funds available for repair work.

US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said federal authorities are cooperating with those in the state to fix the road.

“This is going to be a major disruption in that region,” Buttigieg said, noting that the timeline for those repairs was “definitely not days”.

“I mean, if it is weeks, we’re not talking about a couple,” he said, adding that supply chains could also be impacted.

No deaths or injuries have been reported from the highway collapse. On Monday, however, local media did cite anonymous sources saying that unidentified human remains have been found in the rubble. The tanker truck driver, Nathaniel Moody, remains unaccounted for.

Shapiro said the scene at the highway collapse was one of “just remarkable devastation”. He added that, during a flight over the site, “I found myself thanking the Lord that no motorists who were on I-95 were injured or died.”

Source: Al Jazeera and news agencies