Biden says I-95 repair is top priority for government; Dem governor says it can be done within two weeks
President Biden on Saturday pledged the federal government’s full support for reconstruction efforts in Pennsylvania after a portion of Interstate 95 near Philadelphia collapsed last weekend.
The president delivered remarks at the Philadelphia airport after taking an aerial tour of the damage on I-95, where a tanker truck caught fire below an overpass causing the collapse last weekend. A delegation of Pennsylvania officials was with the president, including Democratic Gov. Josh Shapiro, senators Bob Casey, D-Pa., and John Fetterman, D-Pa., and Rep. Brendan Boyle, D-Pa., who represents the Philadelphia area.
‘I want to say that we’re with you. We’re going to stay with you until this is rebuilt, until it’s totally finished,’ Biden said.
‘There’s no more important project in the country right now as far as I’m concerned.’
The collapse is snarling traffic in Philadelphia as the summer travel season starts, upending hundreds of thousands of morning commutes, disrupting countless businesses and forcing trucking companies to find different routes.
One body was pulled from the wreckage. The resulting fire caused the collapse of the northbound lanes of I-95. The southbound lanes were compromised by the heat from the fire, authorities say.
Construction crews began work on building a temporary roadway after debris from the collapse was demolished days ahead of schedule, the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation said Friday.
Biden praised those who worked quickly to clear debris and said $3 million in federal emergency funds were immediately made available to offset the cost of repairs.
‘This is just a down payment,’ Biden said. ‘We’ll be getting a lot more federal funding out the door in the coming weeks.’
Shapiro said Saturday that, with assistance from the federal government, I-95 will be reopened within the next two weeks.
‘We are going to get traffic moving again thanks to the extraordinary work that is going on here by these union trade workers,’ Shapiro said.
Fetterman spoke as well, comparing the moment to when he and Biden visited a collapsed bridge in western Pennsylvania last year.
‘He promised to make sure that any resources that they needed and any help and support — and guess what? And guess what? That bridge was rebuilt less than a year well, well in front of time and again,’ the senator said.
Biden said the federal government will reimburse Pennsylvania ‘100%’ of the costs during the first 200 days of reconstruction and 90% afterward. The president said more than 150,000 vehicles use I-95 daily, including 14,000 trucks.
‘It’s critical to our economy. It’s critical to our quality of life,’ Biden said. ‘We’re going to continue to do everything within our power to get this back open as quickly and easily as possible, not leaving until it’s done.’
The Associated Press contributed to this report.