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I-95 Collapse In Philly Could Snarl East Coast Supply Chain, Buttigieg Says

Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg speaks at a press conference in Northeast Philly on June 13, 2023, near the site of the section of Interstate 95 that collapsed two days prior, as Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority CEO Leslie Richards look on.

Only one section of Interstate 95 collapsed in Northeast Philadelphia on Sunday morning, but the effects of the tragic infrastructure failure may reverberate across a wide area.

The collapse, which claimed one life and shut down I-95 around the Cottman Avenue exit indefinitely, has already disrupted the supply chain in the Northeast, U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said at a press conference near the site of the incident Tuesday.

"This tragic crash is having an outsize impact on commuters and on goods movement up and down the I-95 corridor," Buttigieg said.

A tanker truck crashed while exiting the interstate heading northbound at 6 a.m. ET on Sunday, igniting 8,500 gallons of gasoline — enough to compromise the steel girders supporting the highway overpass, the Philadelphia Inquirer reports. The truck's driver was killed in the accident.

A northbound section of the highway collapsed when no cars were driving on it, and the damage to the southbound section was extensive enough that it will need to be demolished, which should happen within four to five days, Gov. Josh Shapiro's office announced in a press release.

Shapiro declared a state of emergency Monday, unlocking $7M in state funding for immediate repair and making the commonwealth eligible for federal emergency funds, which Buttigieg pledged to give on Tuesday.

The repair work needed to reopen the section of I-95 will likely take months, officials said, but Shapiro is expected to announce a more detailed timeline at a Wednesday press conference with union officials such as Building Trades Council business manager Ryan Boyer.

Until normal traffic can resume, trucks that normally use the highway will be diverted to local streets and state roads, Shapiro's office said in a press release. Also affected will be businesses around the Cottman Avenue exit, which is a key access point to I-95 for the Northeast Philadelphia industrial submarket.

Velocity Venture Partners principal Tony Grelli, whose firm owns several properties in the area, called it too soon to guess the effect that a prolonged closure of the Cottman Avenue exit could have on local distribution operations in an email to Bisnow.

But business has not been choked off for at least one distribution center within three blocks of the affected exit. Jillamy Transportation's warehouse at 7071 Milnor St. has seen no effect on the pace of client trucks coming in and out, said the warehouse's manager, who declined to give his name when reached by phone Tuesday.

Even without a firm timeline in place for I-95's repair, and despite no data available on the level of disruption expected for logistics operations, Buttigieg expects the impact on the Eastern Seaboard's supply chain to be significant enough to drive the price of goods upward. 

"If a route is disrupted, or it's longer, or trucks have to wait, that goes into the cost of goods," Buttigieg said at the press conference. "Here on the East Coast, there's no question that the effect will be upward pressure [on prices] until it can be resolved."