Best of Philly

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!