‘No worse than we expected’: Veteran traffic reporter weighs impact of I-95 collapse

The incident continues to snarl nearby roadways. But a solution is on its way.

Traffic barely moves in a neighborhood near an elevated section of Interstate 95

Traffic barely moves in a neighborhood near an elevated section of Interstate 95 that collapsed, in Philadelphia, Monday, June 12, 2023. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

Over the last few days, catering manager Alison Korabik has fielded a number of calls from customers wanting to know two things: Are you open, and how do I get to the restaurant?

Under normal circumstances, those questions wouldn’t be unusual. But since Sunday, when a tanker fire collapsed a section of Interstate 95 near Sweet Lucy’s Smokehouse, they’ve taken on a different tenor. They’ve made Korabik concerned about the business at the barbecue spot on State Road, which sits near an exit.

“We have guests coming from all over. We have guests that travel to us from New Jersey and Center City, Bucks County. So everybody is feeling it. Everyone is trying to get around and work with it,” said Korabik during a recent interview.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

That includes Korabik. She lives about 15 minutes away from the restaurant in Bucks County. Since the collapse, it’s taking her closer to 45 minutes to get to work, forcing her to leave the house a lot earlier and rely on her husband to get their children to summer camp. She would normally take them so her husband can leave early for his job in central Jersey.

“We’d have to kind of reverse roles,” said Korabik.

Officials have announced that a temporary bridge will be constructed from a gravel-like material so the damaged section of the highway can reopen while a permanent replacement is in the works.

But it’s unclear when the temporary fix will be completed.

  • WHYY thanks our sponsors — become a WHYY sponsor

In the meantime, drivers heading south on I-95 will continue to face additional travel time. The same goes for those heading northbound. Nearby arteries such as Frankford Avenue and Torresdale Avenue are also jammed up as a result of the collapse.

Randy Chepigan, program director at Total Traffic, said traffic in and around the collapse site has been bad, particularly during the morning rush, when commutes are taking an extra 20 to 30 minutes. At times, traffic has ground to a halt — on I-95 and the surrounding streets.

And yet things aren’t quite the nightmare that drivers may have anticipated in the hours after the deadly blaze.

“I certainly don’t want to make light of it too much for the people who have to sit through it,” said Chepigan, a 40-year traffic reporter. “Sitting through a 20-minute delay is no fun. But it’s been no worse than we expected it to be, which I guess we have to count as a win these days.”

The timing of the collapse may be limiting its impact. The summer vacation season is upon us — a time where there is generally far lighter traffic volume than any of the other three seasons, said Chepigan.

And yet for those forced to negotiate the damaged highway, that temporary bridge probably can’t be built quickly enough.

Get the WHYY app!

WHYY is your source for fact-based, in-depth journalism and information. As a nonprofit organization, we rely on financial support from readers like you. Please give today.

Want a digest of WHYY’s programs, events & stories? Sign up for our weekly newsletter.

Together we can reach 100% of WHYY’s fiscal year goal