A major stretch of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia is closed for the foreseeable future after a fire from a tanker truck led to the collapse of the roadway.
The fire broke out just after 6 a.m. Sunday near the Cottman Avenue ramp. Emergency response crews say the tanker caught fire beneath an overpass directly below the northbound lanes. The fire burned so hot it caused the roadway to collapse. The southbound lanes were also structurally compromised in the fire, officials said.
So far, no injuries have been reported, and officials have not said if any other vehicles were involved.
“It will have a significant impact on the community for a while,” said Tumar Alexander, Philadelphia’s managing director.
All lanes of I-95 are closed in both directions between the Woodhaven Road and Aramingo Avenue exits, according to a Sunday afternoon update from ReadyPhiladelphia. Some streets in the surrounding areas also remain closed for the emergency response. City officials warn residents to expect delays in the area for the coming days and encourage drivers to plan alternate routes for the weekday commute. Local and state law enforcement are working with the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation to establish those routes.
Alexander said Route 1/Roosevelt Boulevard is a possible alternative.City officials suggested southbound drivers could take this detour: Route 63 West (Woodhaven Road), U.S. 1 South, 76 East, and 676 East. For northbound drivers: Use I-676 West, I-76 West, U.S. 1 North to Route 63 East (Woodhaven Road).
What comes next
Now that the fire is out, emergency crews will turn their attention to determining if the southbound section is sound enough to handle the weekday commute.
First, tons of steel and concrete will have to be removed from the damaged section of the roadway. Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management said city, state, and possibly even federal agencies will be tasked with rebuilding the interstate after the debris is cleared.
Dominick Mireles, the director of the Philadelphia Office of Emergency Management, said there is concern of chemical runoff into the nearby Delaware River. The Coast Guard has been brought in to deal with that situation, as well as the City’s hazardous materials experts.
After the fire started, explosions could be heard in surrounding neighborhoods, including reports of manhole coverings being blown off. The Philadelphia Fire Department said its investigating to determine if the incident could have compromised extra fuel or gas lines in the area.
Back in 1996, I-95 was closed for 8 days for emergency repairs after a fire on the highway caused stability issues.
The current closure will likely be longer since in that incident the roadway remained intact.