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Collapsed portion of I-95 will be filled, paved, and livestreamed 24/7

Crews to work around the clock on I-95 reconstruction
Crews to work around the clock on I-95 reconstruction 02:46

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) -- The portion of I-95 that collapsed in Philadelphia will be replaced with a temporary roadway until a permanent road is completed, officials announced in a news conference Wednesday.

A portion of the highway, near Cottman Avenue, collapsed Sunday after a tanker truck crashed, caught fire and exploded. The crash and blast killed the driver, Nathan Moody, of Merchantville, New Jersey. The Philadelphia medical examiner's office confirmed his identity Tuesday night, Mayor Jim Kenney said.

Officials give update on I-95 reconstruction project 27:22

Gov. Josh Shapiro said crews will work around the clock - 24 hours a day, seven days a week - to repair the highway until it is ready to fully reopen. A live stream will be set up so the public can watch the rebuild in real time, Shapiro said.

That livestream to watch workers repair I-95 is now up on PennDOT's website.

Only the northbound lanes collapsed, but the high intensity of the fuel fire also compromised the southbound lanes, which needed to be demolished. Shapiro said the demolition will be completed on Thursday, which is four days after the crash and explosion, and much sooner than originally anticipated.

After that, crews can finally start to rebuild the overpass that carries about 160,000 vehicles every day, including 8% being heavy trucks, but is now mostly desolate and being reduced to rubble.

"Getting I-95 reopened and repaired as safely and as efficiently as possible is our top priority," the governor said. "We cut through the red tape, we developed a creative plan and we are executing."

The gap will then be backfilled with 15,000 cubic yards of a specially designed, Pennsylvania-made, lightweight recycled glass material.

Thursday, the Pennsylvania State Police will escort trucks with the fill from Delco and up I-95 to make sure it gets to the construction site as quickly as possible. 

That fill will build up the ground to surface level so the pavement can be laid on top.

Once the temporary roadway is complete, cars and trucks will be able to return to the interstate, while making sure six lanes are open to traffic at all times as crews work on the permanent bridge rebuild. 

"This is government working together at all levels," Shapiro said, noting that all possible resources at the federal, state and local levels are being devoted to the reconstruction of I-95 as quickly as possible. 

"I will personally see to it that we continue to work together to get this job done," he added.

Shapiro approved $7 million in immediate state funding to the project this week, while federal officials have pledged any and all resources to get the highway open quickly.     

Buckley and Company, a Philadelphia-based contractor with extensive experience in the area, has been hired for the job. 

Rebuilding I-95: Unexpected cost as Philadelphia police on traffic detail 02:40

The Philadelphia Building Trades is also collaborating on the project and have pledged that its members are prepared to work 24/7 to get the road reopened.

"When y'all are sleeping in the middle of the night. When I'm sleeping in the middle of the night, these guys are gonna be working on this road," Shapiro said. "When some of y'all choose to take a day and go down to the Shore, they're gonna be working on this road 24/7, until this road is reopened."

"This means a lot of jobs for Pennsylvanians," Shapiro added.

The loss of part of this major highway is already impacting drivers and the shipping and trucking industries. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg, who visited the site Tuesday, said the collapse will likely affect the prices of goods and services amid supply chain disruptions. 

With all the changes to traffic as a result, businesses in the area are worried about their bottom line. It's mixed emotions from the drivers we spoke to Wednesday about the demolition and rebuilding process.

The big question we heard from commuters: is it safe?

Traffic woes continue as crews work around the clock to repair the interstate collapse.

As traffic crawled down Torresdale Avenue near Bridge Street in Frankford, it wasn't even rush hour. Drivers in the northeast say they've had just about enough with the 95 detours.

"It's been a mess. It's been horrible," Markee Scott said. "Traveling out here has just been chaos."

Scott says the interstate is a lifeline for him, from dropping off and picking up his son at school to traveling for work.

Reopening the collapsed section of I-95 cannot come soon enough.

"Hectic," Anthony Santiago said. "Especially this area around Cottman, total disaster."

We shared details of the rebuilding plan announced by Gov. Shapiro and state officials with drivers, moments after it was announced.

The biggest concern from commuters? Safety.

Drivers react to I-95 detours 02:20

"It should help in some way. I mean it'll improve probably this," Scott said. "Stops a lot of the traffic in the neighborhoods."

Erica Malbacias is optimistic about the plans and while she echoes safety concerns, she says she'll be back on the stretch of highway as soon as the six temporary lanes are completed.

"I think that's great," Malbacias said. "Less traffic, less build-up."

It's unclear how long this project will take so we asked the drivers for their predictions.

"I give it about two months," Scott said.

"Not sure," Malbacias said. "I was thinking a couple of years."

Shapiro said there still is no solid timeline for when the highway will be open to the public. 

Gov. Josh Shapiro, PennDOT Secretary Mike Carroll, Mayor Jim Kenney, Federal Highway Administrator Shailen Blatt and Ryan Boyer of the Building & Construction Trades Council spoke at the 11 a.m. event.

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