Interstate 95 reopens in record time


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The first rule of journalism is for reporters to separate themselves from the story. When a reporter becomes a part of the story, all perspective is lost.

My apologies.

I couldn’t help myself.

That’s why on a dark, foreboding Friday afternoon, I took to the streets. Specifically, I did a lap of the Betsy Ross Bridge, Interstate 95, the Burlington-Bristol Bridge and U.S. Route 130 in New Jersey to witness a minor miracle.

The trip took approximately one hour, thanks to a purposeful jaunt through the surface streets of Port Richmond. Otherwise, there was nothing really out of the ordinary to report.

That’s what was so amazing.

Just a dozen days after a fatal tractor-trailer fire on an exit ramp under I-95 caused a collapse of a section of the highway above, traffic was flowing in both directions.

Even in a driving rain storm, there was no real sense of anything out of the ordinary. Well, with the exception of a giant crane hoisting an American flag over the construction site.

It could have been any other pre-rush hour, early summer Friday afternoon.

For a mile in either direction of the collapse, the lanes were reduced from four to three and from 12 feet wide to 11.

If a driver didn’t know better, it could have been a familiar work zone no different than any other on the stretch of I-95 between Bucks County and the airport.

In truth, though, the whole rebuild is nothing short of a miracle.

The city government, the state and the federal government mobilized so quickly and worked so well that tearing down the damaged section of highway took just four days, with the re-opening coming eight days later. That level of cooperation and planning is just astounding.

The multitude of construction companies, skilled workers and artisans that accomplished this feat are no less heroes than the doctors and nurses that steered us through the early days of the COVID crisis.

The timeline for the permanent completion of the rebuild will number into months but the important work has been done. In record time.

It’s important to appreciate the modern marvel that I-95 is. When you think about it, it is basically a miles-long bridge that mirrors the Delaware River practically from the airport to Bucks County. That’s miles longer than every bridge over the Delaware River from the Commodore Barry to the Pennsylvania Turnpike Bridge combined.

It’s amazing that there haven’t been more disruptions to the “I-95 bridge” over Philly. The last came on March 13, 1996, in Port Richmond, no less.

A fire was started underneath the highway by a ring of teenagers, who were later charged and convicted in the tire fire. A 120-foot section of the highway was damaged with a 63-yard section having to be replaced altogether. Repairs began as soon as the fire was extinguished and two lanes of traffic were restored in a week’s time.

The full repair of the 220-foot section was completed by mid-July, three weeks ahead of schedule.

The current repairs are already ahead of schedule.

On June 17, Gov. Josh Shapiro told President Joe Biden that he expected I-95 to open within two weeks.

Six days later, journalists and residents alike were free to make themselves a part of the story, by driving north and south on Interstate 95.


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