A portion of Interstate 95 in northeast Philadelphia was closed in both directions Sunday after a tanker truck believed to be carrying gasoline caught fire, causing part of the highway to collapse, officials said.
A tanker driver was on an off-ramp from I-95 North when a crash or other incident started a fire under the freeway’s overpass lanes, said Brad Rudolph, a spokesman for the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation.
“That structure quickly collapsed with the heat of the fire, whatever it was,” he said. “And then the south structure was also closed because it was also compromised by the fire.”
Mr. Rudolph said officials were assessing what options they had to restore traffic on the busy highway, which carries about 160,000 vehicles a day.
“I don’t know if it’s a week or two weeks,” he said, adding that his department’s first option is “to get it open as quickly as possible if we can do it.”
There is no information about the driver. Mr Rudolph said the Pennsylvania State Police were investigating possible deaths or injuries from the fire.
Mr Rudolph said the cause of the fire was still under investigation, but there was no indication so far that it was deliberate. He said the fire was on the ramp from I-95 north to Cottman Avenue, which juts out and then goes under the freeway.
“It appears to have been a car accident,” Mr Rudolph said. “This ramp can be tricky if you’re going at high speed.”
Philadelphia Fire Department Battalion Chief Derek Bowmer said at a news conference Sunday morning that the later manhole cover explosions were the result of “the leaking of maybe some fuel or gas lines that may have been compromised by the incident “.
Dominic Mireles, director of Philadelphia’s Office of Emergency Management, said at the news conference that the agency is concerned about the possible “environmental impacts” the fire and collapse could have on the Delaware River, which runs parallel to the damaged section of freeway .
The Philadelphia Water Departmentwhich draws from the Delaware for some of its supply, said there was “no impact on water quality” Sunday afternoon.
“Philadelphia Water officials continue to monitor the situation and work with other agencies in emergency response,” the statement said.
The area where the fire broke out includes auto shops, construction companies and Four Seasons Total Landscaping, the family-run business where Rudolph W. Giuliani, then President Donald Trump’s personal attorney, held a press conference in 2020 as major news organizations began to the election is called for President Biden.
All lanes of I-95 between the Woodhaven and Aramingo exits and some nearby streets were closed Sunday afternoon, the city of Philadelphia said in a news release.
The city advised commuters to plan alternate routes for their weekday trips and encouraged them to use public transportation. State and local agencies are creating detours, including along Pennsylvania Route 63, Interstate 676 and U.S. Route 1, the city said.
Gov. Josh Shapiro of Pennsylvania said he was instructed about the fire. The Federal Transport Secretary, Pete Buttigieg, said on Twitter that he had offered the governor federal aid “to aid recovery and reconstruction.”
In April, a portion of Interstate 95 in Connecticut was closed after a fuel tanker crashed on a major bridge. The explosion killed one person and sent heating oil into the River Thames, officials said.
In 2017, part of Interstate 85 in Atlanta collapsed due to a fire. The contractor who replaced the damaged roadway, CW Matthews, said it took 44 days of continuous work to complete the repairs.