PHILADELPHIA — U.S. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg visited the site in Philadelphia where an out-of-control tractor-trailer hauling gasoline flipped over on an Interstate 95 off-ramp, caught fire and destroyed a section of the East Coast’s main north-south highway.
One body was pulled from the wreckage.
Buttigieg met with city and state officials to discuss how the U.S. Department of Transportation can help rebuild the roughly 100-foot-long section of I-95, the agency said.
“This tragic crash is having an outsized impact on commuters and on goods movement up and down the I-95 corridor. It’s a key artery for the movement of people and goods. And that’s why it’s so important to make sure that it’s restored quickly,” Buttigieg said. “The only thing that’s even more important than making sure it’s restored quickly is making sure it’s restored safely.”
Pennsylvania Department of Transportation Secretary Mike Carroll said he along with Governor Josh Shapiro will announce replacement plans on Wednesday.
“We are finalizing plans for the reopen of I-95 and we’ll try to do it as quickly as we can,” Carroll said.
For now, I-95 will be closed in both directions for weeks as the summer travel season starts, upending hundreds of thousands of morning commutes and disrupting countless businesses.
The elevated southbound portion of I-95 will have to be demolished, as well as the northbound side, officials say.
The driver of the tractor-trailer was feared dead, although the coroner has yet to identify the victim. Pennsylvania State Police said a body was turned over to the Philadelphia medical examiner and coroner but did not identify the remains or respond when asked whether they belonged to the driver.
While the remains haven’t been officially identified, family members of the driver, Nathaniel Moody, believe their loved one is the person who was killed.
“I am kind of baffled. I am trying to not cry because I don’t know what happened. I don’t know what happened,” Moody’s cousin, Isaac, told 6abc Action News.
Authorities say the driver was headed northbound, navigating a curving off-ramp when the vehicle went out of control and landed on its side, rupturing the tank.
The 6abc Action Cam was at the Pennsylvania Task Force One headquarters in the 6600 block of New State Road in the Tacony section of the city on Monday afternoon as the wreckage of the truck was hauled away.
Just before noon Monday, Pennsylvania Governor Josh Shapiro signed a proclamation of disaster emergency following the collapse.
According to a press release from the governor’s office, “The proclamation allows the Commonwealth to quickly draw down federal funds and authorizes state agencies to use all available resources to expedite work and cut through the red tape to rebuild I-95 safely and as efficiently as possible.”
The damaged I-95 segment carries about 160,000 vehicles daily, believed to be the busiest roadway in Pennsylvania, state officials said.
PennDOT rated the 104-foot span as in good condition earlier this year, with another inspection set for 2025.
Officials say rebuilding the highway could take months.
In California, a similar situation happened with a highway ramp in Oakland. It was replaced in 26 days, Joseph L. Schofer, a retired professor of civil and environmental engineering from Northwestern University, said.
In Atlanta, an elevated portion of Interstate 85 collapsed in a fire, shutting down the heavily traveled route through the heart of the city in March 2017. It took authorities there 43 days to replace it, Schofer said.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.