Traffic snarled Tuesday around a two-mile stretch of Interstate 95 that was ordered closed for at least two days for emergency repairs of a crack in a concrete support pillar of the major northeast corridor.
Repairs to the crack, which ranges from 2 inches to several inches wide, required closure of both northbound and southbound lanes of the highway north of Philadelphia's central business district, Pennsylvania Department of Transportation spokesman Gene Blaum said Monday.
"Obviously, we feel it could compromise the strength of that section of the highway," Blaum said.
The section of the interstate carries about 190,000 vehicles a day, making the repair "a major undertaking," he said.
Traffic jammed at exit points as motorists were sent on detours around the closed area during the morning commute Tuesday. The stretch of I-95 was shut down after midnight. Mayor Michael Nutter said officials hoped to have the damage repaired in two days.
"Fortunately it was found, we're on top of it, and we're taking care of the situation," he said.
A smaller crack, about a half-inch wide, was first noticed by an inspector last fall. The same inspector happened to be in the area Monday and decided to check on the support, Blaum said.
"This crack has grown considerably since October," Blaum said. "It was very fortuitous that he took that look today."
Concrete at the top of the column had crumbled, making reinforcing rods visible from the street below, and brick-sized chunks of concrete lay at the base of the pillar.
"Obviously this is certainly not something we would do unless it is absolutely necessary, to shut down the interstate, but it's going to be done," Blaum said.
Blaum said the highway's other supports in the area did not show similar deterioration. Several sections of I-95, including the column in question, had been scheduled for repair later this year, Blaum said.
PennDOT planned to erect four steel towers to surround and support the concrete pillar, after which the highway would be reopened.