2023 Disaster Recovery
The Heroes of the I-95 Rebuild
When we got the news in June that a tragic tractor-trailer fire had taken out a portion of I-95, we all had the same collective thought, perhaps expressed best by city managing director Tumar Alexander: “I-95 will be impacted for a long time, for a long time.” But Josh Shapiro — doing his new-governor flex and demonstrating an undeniable knack for seizing a big moment — wasn’t having any of that. He promptly set in motion a flurry of emergency declarations and resource-marshaling we’ve not seen round here since the pope’s visit.
He was aided by a bit of kismet. There was the blink-and-you-missed-it demolition job by Deptford’s C. Abbonizio Contractors, who happened to be working nearby on a different I-95 project. Then we all became experts on foamed glass aggregate, thanks to Delco’s Aeroaggregates, providers of the miracle backfill material — made of recycled bottles! — that temporary lanes would be built upon. And there was the rebuild by South Philly-based Buckley & Company, which also had its equipment nearby, for work on the I-95/Betsy Ross Bridge interchange. Serendipity! PennDOT chief Mike Carroll arrived on the scene within hours and lived out of a Jeep as he planned and orchestrated the rebuild. And thanks to the wildly popular I-95 livestream, the city had something new to cheer for.
The collapse played into the “Bad things happen in Philadelphia” narrative. The reopening less than two weeks later neatly flipped that gloomy fallacy on its head. Well played, Brotherly Lovers!