RICHMOND, Va. — A tanker truck exploded underneath interstate I-95 near Philadelphia on Sunday, causing part of the interstate to collapse. Officials said it could take months to complete the repairs and that portion of one of America’s busiest interstates will remain closed indefinitely.
South of the incident here, in the Richmond region, I-95 stretches dozens of miles, and the region is home to many other interstates. Although the circumstances of the Philadelphia collapse are unique to that incident, CBS 6 searched to find the condition of the interstate bridges and overpasses here.
VDOT reports the health of bridges across Virginia annually. The latest report is from July 2021.
As of that report, there were 520 structures that carry interstate traffic in the Richmond region (bridges, overpasses, etc.) Of those structures, 98.5% of them are categorized as in “good” or “fair” condition. Only eight of those interstate-carrying structures are deemed in “poor” condition.
It is important to note that “poor” does not mean they are unsafe to drive over. VDOT said it means they require increased levels of attention through repair and replacement.
Every bridge is inspected every two years, VDOT officials said, unless it receives a “poor” rating, in which case inspectors examine the structure every year.
“The Virginia Department of Transportation’s Richmond District is proud to say that the number of structurally deficient bridges is very low on our Interstates,” VDOT’s Richmond office said in a statement to CBS 6. “To improve safety on the I-95 corridor, VDOT has several ongoing bridge construction projects. In downtown Richmond, five bridges are currently being rehabilitated. There are also bridge projects at Ashcake Road and Reymet Road that are currently under construction. Additionally, Bridge projects at Scott Road, Parham Road, and Crater Roads are also in development.”
Sen. Mark Warner (D-Virginia) was visiting Richmond on Monday and was a key negotiator for the $1.2 trillion Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act a few years ago.
Warner said the Philadelphia incident shows how critical those investments will be in the long term.
“This problem didn’t arise overnight, it’s not going to be fixed overnight,” Warner said. “Our infrastructure system, in the ’60s and ’70s and ’80s, was the envy of the world. Our infrastructure system today, in many areas, is decaying and, in certain places, potentially unsafe. So, we got to get those dollars out.”
Warner said he often hears from people asking where all the money has gone but said getting infrastructure projects up and running takes time.
“I’d love to say I could snap a finger and all those roads and bridges would be repaired overnight. It will take time, but at the end of the day it will mean a safer community, it’ll mean shorter commutes, it’ll mean a stronger economy,” Warner said.
VDOT said they are working to improve the health of structures and bridges across Virginia. Officials said funding from the Infrastructure bill has been used to launch 111 projects throughout the Commonwealth totaling $575 million so far.