Massive Fire Causes Section of I-95 to Collapse in Philadelphia, Officials Predict Months of Traffic Nightmares

A section of the I-95 collapses in Philadelphia. (Credit: Washington's ghost)

A massive fire caused a section of Interstate 95 to collapse Sunday morning in Northeast Philadelphia, causing both directions of travel to be shut down. Although no fatalities have been reported, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro said that a person may still be trapped inside a vehicle underneath the rubble.

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Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman Brad Rudolph said the cause of the disaster was still under investigation but that it did not appear to be due to foul play. Fox News, however, is reporting that a tanker tank may have exploded:

Chaos ensued when a tanker truck caught fire when reportedly traveling under an overpass, causing the elevated structure to collapse. Authorities believe the truck could have been carrying hundreds of gallons of gasoline.

“That structure quickly collapsed with the heat of the fire as big as it was,” Rudolph said. “And then the southbound structure was also shut down because it was compromised by the fire as well.”

Scenes from the site were harrowing:

President Joe Biden has been made aware of the situation, and Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said they’d be willing to offer any assistance needed:

Authorities said that the bridge would take weeks to fix, creating traffic nightmares for the surrounding areas. As a former East Coaster, I can tell you that the I-95 is one of the most important corridors for the entire region, and its closure will create havoc. This particular section carries at least 160,000 vehicles a day.

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General Manager of the Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority Leslie Richards said, “This is an emergency that has created a tremendous challenge for our transportation network. We are all going to need some extra patience in the coming days.”

The situation reminds me of what the City of Los Angeles experienced in 1994 when a portion of the 10 freeway collapsed during the Northridge earthquake. Although officials predicted that the closure would cause chaos for months, it was actually re-opened 74 days earlier than expected due to Herculean efforts by the contractors.

Let’s hope the folks in Philly experience similar results. Officials say they will know more Monday morning about the extent of the damage.

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