July 28, 2023 – Interstate 95 reconstruction at the Cottman Avenue Interchange became a bit more complicated following a June 11 tanker truck crash and fire that destroyed an I-95 bridge at the Cottman Avenue Interchange.
Replacing the Fire Damaged Structure
A marathon effort by engineers, construction workers, and suppliers — led by Governor Josh Shapiro and a host of federal, state, and city officials— allowed PennDOT to reopen I-95 on June 23. With three lanes of traffic in each direction now flowing at reduced speed through the interchange over a temporary roadway comprised of an “ultra-light foamed glass aggregate” base (see below), the job of rebuilding the structure — which earlier (2017) had been replaced as part of the CP2 contract — is now underway.
The repair will be done in two phases. The first will rebuild the outer sections of the bridge while traffic uses the filled center section The second phase will rebuild the center section while traffic uses the new outer section bridges.
Following the removal of all the damaged steel and concrete decking in the days following the fire (see right), crews began removing the damaged abutment concrete using a process of hydrodemolition*. Once all the damaged concrete is removed and repairs to return the abutments to their original condition are completed, replacement deck beams will be set and the new superstructure (deck, parapets, etc.) will be built for the outside sections of the northbound and southbound overpasses.
When I-95 traffic is shifted onto the completed outer segments of the bridge by the end of the year, the temporary roadway will be removed, and the northbound I-95 ramp to Cottman Avenue will reopen to a one-lane, staged construction traffic pattern, depending on completing any necessary pavement and utility work. The ramp is wide (normally two lanes plus shoulders), so there is room to maintain one traffic lane. The center section of the bridge will then be built. PennDOT’s goal is to have the bridge fully rebuilt by late spring/early summer 2024.
New On-Ramp and Other CP3 Construction
Meanwhile, construction continues through next spring (2024) on the new Cottman Avenue on-ramp to southbound I-95 under PennDOT’s $52.7 million I-95/CP3 project.
Crews working on the Section CP3 Project (immediately adjacent to the bridge construction area) are relocating an active major sewer main that runs parallel to southbound I-95 (see below, right). After the sewer relocation is completed this summer, work will get underway on a retaining wall that will support the new ramp connecting to southbound I-95 directly from Cottman Avenue east of State Road.
Once the new ramp is in place next spring, Wissinoming Street will be rebuilt as a functioning City Street running along southbound I-95 between Cottman and Princeton avenues.
Utility installation and roadway construction continue through this fall on surface streets — State Road, New State Road, Princeton Avenue, Levick Street, and Milnor Street— around the interchange.
During all of the construction at the Cottman Avenue Interchange through next spring there will be periodic off-peak travel restrictions and pedestrian-posted detours on surface streets around and approaching the Cottman Avenue Interchange, including New State Road and its intersections at Magee Avenue and Unruh Street, and State Road and its intersections with Cottman Avenue and Princeton Avenue.
Under two previous construction projects – CP1, completed in 2012, and CP2, completed in 2017 — I-95 was reconstructed and widened to four lanes in each direction between Bleigh Avenue and Levick Street. I-95 bridges over Bleigh Avenue, the Cottman Avenue off-ramp, Princeton Avenue, New State Road, Unruh Avenue, and Magee Avenue also were replaced.
In addition, a new southbound on-ramp was constructed at Longshore Avenue, and a new northbound on-ramp was constructed at Milnor Street to merge with the existing on-ramp from Princeton Avenue. A number of surface streets in the vicinity of the interchange also were improved, including Cottman and Princeton avenues and New State Road.
C. Abbonizio Contractors, Inc. of Sewell, N.J., is the general contractor on the CP3 project. Buckley & Co. of Philadelphia is replacing the damaged bridge under an emergency contract.
*Hydrodemolition is a concrete removal technique that utilizes high-pressure water, often containing an abrasive material, to remove deteriorated and sound concrete as well as asphalt and grout. This process provides an excellent bonding surface for repair material and new coating applications.