I-95 Bridge Collapse And Solutions, Explained By Professor Kim Roddis


September 4, 2023

kim roddis

On June 11, a bridge that carries Interstate 95 failed after a tanker truck carrying 8,500 gallons of gasoline was trying to round a curve on a ramp off the highway, flipped onto its side, and caught on fire. The Washington Post covered this breaking news in the article, “Body recovered in I-95 bridge wreckage as drivers face months of disruptions.”

The Post interviewed various experts to provide readers with a reason as to why this occurred. In the article, Kim Roddis, a retired Professor of Civil Engineering at GW, said when steel reaches extremely high temperatures, its ability to carry a load is reduced.

“The bridge becomes much less strong and eventually what happens is it can’t carry its own weight and it slumps down,” Roddis said.

In a follow-up article titled, “Temporary road will be built to quickly reopen collapsed stretch of I-95,” the Post shared the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation’s announcement that they will build a temporary road using recycled glass material to patch the gap in I-95 left by the bridge collapse. Roddis said the recycled glass material will allow the temporary road to function. She also said opting for a temporary road will drive up the cost of rebuilding but will mean the highway can be restored far more quickly. She predicted it would shorten the time to reopen the road from months to weeks.

“This is a really great way to get the functionality back,” Roddis said. “This is the kind of thing that might get done in a military situation but we usually don’t do it because we want to be able to do the permanent fix.” 

Similar bridges across the U.S. have been rebuilt in weeks, but Roddis noted that limited access to the site in Philadelphia makes rebuilding more difficult, so opting for a two-stage plan makes sense.

“It is a creative solution,” she said.

Read more about how this closure is affecting Philadelphia and the entire mid-Atlantic region and the plan to build a temporary road on The Washington Post.