Feds Pledge Financial Backing to Philadelphia in Rebuilding I-95

Feds Pledge Financial Backing to Philadelphia in Rebuilding I-95

U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg visited Philadelphia on June 13 to discuss the plan to rebuild Interstate 95 after a truck fire collapsed a portion of the northbound road.

“We’re going to continue to be here every step of the way for as long as it takes with both financial backing and any other technical support that’s needed,” Buttigieg said.

PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll said an announcement on June 14 will offer more details on the timeline for rebuilding the heavily trafficked interstate used by 160,000 vehicles, including almost 13,000 trucks.

“The coordination … shouldn’t be lost on anybody,” he said. “We’ve had wonderful coordination that have brought us to a speedy demolition process.”

He also praised local and federal leaders and contractors at work on the site. Reconstruction, he said, would begin later the same week.

Buttigieg deferred to PennDOT for a timeline of the highway fix and noted some federal financial support would be available for Philadelphia’s public transit.

“We’re working out the details right now in terms of what’s eligible, but there are provisions that allow some forms of federal highway money to be used to support transit in response to emergencies, and we’ve been in close contact with SEPTA,” he said. 

Work to rebuild the interstate will go to a contractor that was working on unrelated repairs nearby when the interstate collapse happened.

“There was no bidding on this process because of the emergency declaration and the emergency nature,” Carroll said. “The availability of that equipment that was exactly aligned exactly with the need that we had here made it an obvious choice.”

While the demolition is ongoing, Carroll said the replacement plan will be announced June 14.

He did not speak at the press conference, but Rep. Ed Neilson, D-Philadelphia, has been involved in the government’s response to the collapse.

“The federal government has stepped up to the plate for funding and (the governor) wants to get this road open as soon as possible,” Neilson said. “But until they actually examine the structure itself---because we know the top structure for sure is gone, but what about the supporting walls and structures, how deep does it go? … that’s all engineering, and that’s not gonna be done in a day. We don’t even know the outstanding cost at this time.”

Shapiro’s emergency declaration speeds up the government’s response, but it will have to be renewed after 21 days.

“That helps the money start flowing, that’s very important, and now we have to make certain that we don’t run out of time,” Neilson said. “We’ll have to extend that, and what that extension looks like: we all have wish lists. One of those pieces that we’ll negotiate through the House and the Senate and we’ll see what we can come up with to make sure that the governor has all the tools in his box to be able to do what his department and Secretary of Transportation Mike Carroll can do.”

The federal secretary took the opportunity to remind the public that roadway safety matters.

“It has been harder to get people focused on roadway safety, an issue that claims 40,000 U.S. lives a year,” Buttigieg said. “This is an important reminder of just how vital and just how big an issue roadway safety is.”

We thank The Center Square for reprint permission.

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