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Chester County Press

Editorial: Innovation under pressure

06/20/2023 03:22PM ● By Richard Gaw

On early Sunday morning, June 11, four northbound lanes of I-95 collapsed in northeast Philadelphia following the explosion of an 8,500-gallon tanker truck carrying gasoline that severed the main expressway and caused immediate chaos for travelers along the well-traveled route that connects millions of people annually to their jobs, to distribution centers and commerce centers and to their schools and their families.

As he saw the charred remains of the 103-foot-long stretch of highway from an overhead helicopter, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro called it “remarkable devastation,” and immediately went into action by issuing a declaration of disaster, an initiative that will permit Pennsylvania to seek – and receive – federal assistance. Shapiro was joined by Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney and U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg in promising the funds needed to repair the damage.

Then the news hit: the timetable for the reopening of the roadway would likely take several months. PennDOT is scrambling to cobble together a reasonable alternative for motorists, while in the mean time schedules teeter off kilter, city blocks and cozy, two-lane neighborhoods coagulate into a crawl of vehicles, and the tempers and patience of millions are tested like never before. In short, the City of Philadelphia – Chester County’s nearest large city – will embark upon a long, hot summer of inconvenience.

Consider for a moment, the complete impact of the bridge’s collapse as if a tragedy of similar proportions occurred on one of Chester County’s most well-traveled thorofares. There would be some hotheads in the mix -- we are most sure of that – who live by the belief that the world is required to maintain both their time and their overall happiness above that of others. And yet, we are also nearly certain that most in Chester County would look to the helpers – the many police departments and fire units in our municipalities, and the road crews who toil without fanfare in our townships.

In the face of tragedies large and small, specks of order begin to arise plan by plan in order that it eventually becomes a unified collaboration, authored by our most trusted men and women in the uniforms of their respective industries. There is already clear evidence of this at work; it was reported last week that crews are working 24 hours a day to construct a temporary highway where the portion of I-95 collapsed. Just days after the collapse, Shapiro and a team of advisors outlined a plan that calls for the installation of 2,000 tons of recycled glass that will be used to fill in the demolished area, followed by the paving of the reconstructed roadway that will enable the highway to reopen three lanes of traffic in each direction.

Patience may be a virtue, but innovation under pressure continues to solve our most complex issues.