“I can state with confidence that we will have I-95 reopened within the next two weeks. We are going to get traffic moving again thanks to the extraordinary work of those here and our incredible union trade workers.”
With those words, Gov. Josh Shapiro told President Joe Biden, Pennsylvanians and all those who use Interstate 95 that his all-hands-on-deck response to get the highway reopened is ahead of schedule.
Late last week, Shapiro was cagey about the length of time it could take to complete the reconstruction of the collapsed portion of the highway. He did indicate that he wanted to use the 43-day timeline used by the Georgia Department of Transportation to complete restoration of I-85 after a fire damaged that highway around Atlanta.
Shapiro joined Biden on an aerial tour of the site and briefed the president on the initial response, his reconstruction plan, and the continued coordination between all levels of government.
Afterwards, the pair held a briefing at a hangar at the Philadelphia International Airport and were joined by Pennsylvania senators Bob Casey Jr. and John Fetterman, as well as Congressman Brendan Boyle and Philadelphia mayor Jim Kenney.
Biden said that “there is no more important project to the country right now as far as I’m concerned. We’re going to be getting a lot more federal funding out the door in the coming weeks. Additionally, as Pennsylvania has already received $8.9 billion from the bipartisan infrastructure law, including $6.5 billion for transportation projects, which gives the governor some flexibility to move existing state funds for this project right away knowing that this money in the bank.
The president also spoke of his local knowledge of the importance of this Northeast artery.
“Look, I grew up not very far from here, just across the line from Pennsylvania in Claymont, Delaware. I know how important is this federal highway is, not just to Philly, but to the entire Northeast corridor. 150,000 vehicles are traveling every day, including 14,000 trucks. (I-95) is critical to our economy, It is critical to our quality of life.”
Shapiro added “What this tragedy has shown everyone, Pennsylvania can do big things and we are tested, we are able to meet this moment. To me this reconstruction on 95 is a great example of what’s great about about Pennsylvania, innovation. It’s our grit, and we work together to get this done.”
Members of the Philadelphia Building Trades, working for Philadelphia-based contractor Buckley & Company, have begun pouring truckloads of foamed glass aggregate into the gap in the roadway, building it up to the surface level of I-95. They will continue working 24/7 through the holiday weekend to reopen the highway as quickly as possible.