I-95 is open to traffic again

March 20, 2008 10:27:57 AM PDT
Drivers in the morning rush who usually use I-95 between Girard and Allegheny Avenues are finally getting the break they were hoping for.

Crews have finally finished shoring up the four steel supports that have temporarily replaced a concrete pillar that had cracked. The reopening is taking place in three steps. I-95 has now opened. The Vine Street connection to I-95 will open next. The last stage will consist of the reopening of I-95's on and off ramps.

PennDOT admits its initial plan to reopen by midnight was ambitious, but safety won't be compromised. Another plan to try to have the highway open by 5 a.m. was scuttled, and at 5:30 a.m. officials were telling Action News that the highway will remain closed through Thursday morning's rush hour.

George Dunheimer of PennDOT says, "There is a tremendous amount of weight as you can expect with 8 lanes of I-95 up there. That's why they can't rush any part of this job."

Once was deemed safe, workers started reopening it in 3 phases. First, the south and northbound lanes reopened, then traffic off of the Vine Street Expressway was slowly merged onto the interstate. Then, officials started reopening the the 7 closed ramps.

PennDOT has been trying to take advantage of the 3-mile shutdown to see if there are any other problem spots under I-95. Action News was there as inspectors checked for concrete deterioration along the highway bridge over Richmond Street - just one of 15 bridges on 95 that have attracted concern.

Stay tuned to Action News and 6abc.com for the latest on the I-95 shut down. We will let you know the moment it has been reopened.

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None of this would have happened if it hadn't been for Peter Kim, an alert bridge inspector who stopped for a sandwich near here. Kim tells Action News, "Driving by I noticed that there was a problem with that column. So we pulled in and we immediately called PennDOT."

Peter took a picture of the crack with his cell phone and emailed it to PennDOT. They decided to shutdown the highway immediately until these temporary repairs are complete.

Drivers have had to deal with detours since the commuting mess began. Some drivers have had one eye on the road, one on the map. Nonetheless, traffic has moved at a reasonable pace along Aramingo Avenue for most of the day.

Police seemed to be on every corner, directing traffic and controlling the lights. But as the day progressed and the rain picked up there were moments of gridlock.

The morning commute went reasonably well. It seems drivers listened to PennDOT, giving themselves extra time or using public transportation.

Businesses along the detour routes took a financial hit over the past 36 hours, but it seems business is getting back to normal. Diners chowed down their favorite foods at the Aramingo Diner. But, waitresses say it didn't stop patrons from griping between bites.

"It's frustrating... very frustrating. We've had drivers out here for 20 minutes not moving," says Eileen Strzeleck fo the Aramingo Diner.

Late yesterday afternoon, getting anywhere in a hurry was impossible in the area around the detour. If you have to drive in the area around the emergency construction... bring your patience along.

The Associated Press contributed to this story.


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