I-95 in Philadelphia to close for days

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Traffic snarled today, March 18, around a two-mile stretch of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia that was ordered closed for at least two days for emergency repairs of a crack in a concrete support pillar of the major northeast corridor, the Associated Press reported.

Repairs to the crack, which ranges from 2 inches to several inches wide, required closure of both northbound and southbound lanes of the highway north of the city’s central business district, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman Gene Blaum told the AP Monday, March 17.

“Obviously, we feel it could compromise the strength of that section of the highway,” Blaum told the news agency. The section of the interstate carries about 190,000 vehicles a day, making the repair “a major undertaking,” he told the AP.

The stretch of I-95 was shut down after midnight, and Mayor Michael Nutter told the news agency officials hoped to have the damage repaired in two days. “Fortunately it was found, we’re on top of it, and we’re taking care of the situation,” Nutter told the AP.

A smaller crack, about a half-inch wide, was first noticed last fall by an inspector who happened to be in the area Monday and decided to check on the support, Blaum told the news agency. “This crack has grown considerably since October,” Blaum told the AP. “It was very fortuitous that he took that look.”

Concrete at the top of the column had crumbled, making reinforcing rods visible from the street below, and brick-sized chunks of concrete lay at the base of the pillar, the AP reported. “Obviously, this is certainly not something we would do unless it is absolutely necessary, to shut down the interstate, but it’s going to be done,” Blaum told the news agency.

PennDOT planned to erect four steel towers to surround and support the concrete pillar, after which the highway would be reopened, the AP reported. Several sections of I-95 — including the column in question — had been scheduled for repair later this year, but the highway’s other supports in the area did not show similar deterioration, Blaum told the news agency.

Maptuit Corp. — a provider of truck-specific real-time turn-by-turn GPS navigation solutions for the trucking industry — says it reacted swiftly to the I-95 closure. The company says it has taken the necessary steps to ensure trucks are being diverted by implementing a global restriction to affect the routing around the affected area.

“We have moved as quickly as we were able to verify the information with the DOT,” says Kevin LaBrie, director of customer support at Burlington, Mass.-based Maptuit. “We were also alerted by one of our customers and then made the real-time changes to our routing systems. We will continue to work with local and state officials and the Department of Transportation to provide our customers the latest information and modify the restriction once we are able to confirm with the DOT.”

Pennsylvania Gov. Ed Rendell’s office said he was “cautiously optimistic” that the busy north-south corridor would reopen Wednesday night.