U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg was in Philadelphia Tuesday to assure commuters the I-95 reconstruction would be done as quickly and efficiently as possible.
“What I can tell is they are working in a very innovative and very focused way to find the quickest, safest way to make sure this is restored and to minimize impacts during that period,” Sec. Buttigieg said while viewing the scene of the vehicle crash, which ignited the intense fire that led to the bridge’s collapse. He reassured commuters that federal, state, and city officials are working harmoniously to replace the damaged span as quickly as possible.
The driver who died in the crash was identified by the Philadelphia medical examiner on Tuesday night as Nathan Moody, 53, according to the Associated Press.
Buttigieg praised the ongoing coordination effort and the speed of the demolition of the southbound side.
“The first step to making sure that this is reconstructed is to tear down the compromised structure,” he said. “I saw images the same day that were collected, and just the difference from then to now — in not much more than 48 hours — is striking.”
Buttigieg said any federal funding needed would be made available, within guidelines, to pay for the costs of the rebuild.
Also Tuesday, Pa. Department of Transportation Secretary Mike Carroll told reporters a plan for the rebuild is nearly complete.
“We were focused on the demolition, and as busy as we are here with the demolition, we are equally busy in Harrisburg and in King of Prussia relative to the replacement plan,” he said.
Carroll said luckily, there was a contractor working nearby.
“There was no bidding on this process because of the emergency declaration and the emergency nature,” he explained. “But we were fortunate there was a contractor already on site doing a different project on the interstate. And so the availability of that equipment, that was exactly aligned with the need that we had here, made it an obvious choice for PennDOT to enjoin that contractor — and pay that contractor an advance for the demolition… in the interests of all of our traveling public.”
That allowed work to begin shortly after the fire was put out, Carroll said.
As for the alternatives, SEPTA CEO/General Manager Leslie Richards believes the transit agency has adapted well to the increased capacity.
“We continue to evaluate options and enhance service for all who are impacted,” she said. “The service plan we put together immediately following the incident on Sunday has shown promise over the first few days. We’re closely in analyzing all of the performance and ridership to see what additional changes can be made.”
The transportation agency reported a 12% ridership increase at the Fox Chase, Trenton, and West Trenton lines compared to last week, according to data released Tuesday.
Richards said SEPTA employees are going the extra mile to help with the commuting crisis.
“We’re very proud of all the frontline workers and of course, the sector’s dedicated frontline workforce and all our operators and maintenance personnel.”
She said the mass transit still has capacity, with three additional inbound and outbound trains on the Trenton line and increased capacity on other lines — in addition to free parking at all SEPTA lots.
“We’re seeing delays throughout the city through increased traffic volume. We’re working with the police and seeing how we can make those adjustments,” Richards said. “But please know we are committed to working with everybody together to make sure that we can all get through this and get through this as painlessly as possible. Please continue to check SEPTA.org for all of the latest because we will continue to make adjustments.”