(Bloomberg) -- The collapse of a section of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia will cause “major disruption” in the region just as the summer travel season begins, US Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said.
The failure will affect the movement of people and goods, he said Monday at an annual conference of the American Council of Engineering Companies in Washington. His agency will back the rebuilding with financial and technical support, he said.
A section of the highway, the longest north-south interstate on the East Coast, collapsed during a tanker-truck fire on Sunday. Northbound and southbound lanes will be closed for months, according to Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro, who on Monday signed a disaster proclamation to free emergency funding.
“This is not just about commutes,” Buttigieg said. “This is also about supply chains, about 150,000 vehicles a day, and a good percentage of that is trucking. For both vehicle passenger traffic, and for goods moving supply chains, this is going to be a major disruption in that region.”
The 1,924-mile (3,096-kilometer) interstate runs from Miami to the Maine-Canada border. It’s part of a critical long-distance trucking and commuting route that cuts through Philadelphia, the nation’s sixth-most populous city, with about 1.6 million residents.
Beyond the city’s heart, the highway provides access to Philadelphia International Airport and the Philadelphia Port, with a foreign trade zone, an automobile terminal that can process 1,000 vehicles a day and a wholesale produce market that is the world’s largest enclosed refrigerated space of its kind, according to its operator.
The interstate also is key to vacationers enjoying their first extended holiday since the federal Covid-19 public health emergency was declared over on May 11.
Jana Tidwell, a spokesperson for AAA Mid-Atlantic, said the collapse will cause major delays, beyond commuting traffic, in surrounding neighborhoods.
“It will be travel and tourism, commerce throughout the summer months, perhaps longer,” Tidwell said in an interview.
The fire, on an underpass in the Tacony neighborhood, remained under investigation, according to the Pennsylvania Transportation Department. Flames caused the northbound highway overhead to collapse and weakened supports for the the southbound lanes. On Monday, demolition crews were removing the debris.
“A more exact timeline for the complete rebuilding of the I-95 roadway should be available in the coming days once the engineers complete their review,” the state Transportation Department said on its website.
Buttigieg said the project “will have the full support of the United States Department of Transportation for as long as it takes to get that restored.”
(Updates with comment from AAA starting in eighth paragraph)
©2023 Bloomberg L.P.