‘Huge hassle’: I-95 collapse snarls truckers but wider economic damage uncertain


(PHILADELPHIA) — The collapse of a section of Interstate 95 in Philadelphia left Glenn Messinger scrambling to find new routes for 40 trucks that deliver food each day from a warehouse located a block away from the wreckage.

“It’s a huge hassle,” said Messinger, the vice president of branch operations for Baldor Specialty Foods, which delivers items to restaurants across the East Coast. “You need to have a lot of patience.”

The branch’s truckers, who Messinger says make between $19 and $23 an hour, have been forced to take an alternative route that takes as much as 40 minutes longer than usual, hiking delivery costs, he said. He noted that the company has opted to leave prices unchanged.

“We’re just going to have suck it up,” Messinger told ABC News.

The truckers coordinated by Messinger are among 14,000 who drive along I-95 each day, making their delay one of the most pronounced economic effects of a highway collapse that has disrupted the transport of goods and the commute of employees, experts and business officials told ABC News.

“A lot of America’s GDP is moving along that road every single day,” Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said at a press conference in Philadelphia on Wednesday. “It’s not just an inconvenience — it’s a cost.”

Still, the economic damage will remain largely contained to the immediate region, since suppliers and travelers who do not need to stop in the city can avail themselves of alternative highway routes with minimal inconvenience, experts and business officials said.

The highway damage “adds to commute times and raises shipping costs, but too few people and businesses are impacted to matter,” Mark Zandi, chief economist at Moody’s Analytics, told ABC News. “People and businesses will quickly adjust.”

The section of Interstate 95 collapsed on Sunday following a large vehicle fire, authorities told ABC News.

On Wednesday, Pennsylvania Gov. Josh Shapiro said the “most efficient” way to get I-95 reopened will be to backfill an underpass and then work to build a new permanent bridge.

Shapiro didn’t provide a timeline for when the repaving of the underpass will be completed but said workers will get it done “as quickly as possible.” He previously said it would take months to repair the highway.

The area near the collapse plays host to manufacturers, warehouses and other industrial suppliers that rely on I-95 as a conduit for taking goods to market, Rebecca Oyler, president and CEO of the Pennsylvania Motor Truck Association, told ABC News.

The companies depend in part on items that arrive at the nearby Port of Philadelphia, where refrigerated containers make up more than half of the freight due to a heavy share of produce, she added. The delays will impose higher costs due to extra labor hours and fuel costs, she said.

“Most of these businesses are really struggling today to manage new supply issues that have popped up,” Oyler said. “They’re going to need to work up a solution until this is resolved.”

Oyler acknowledged, however, that the damaged highway would have little impact on deliveries without pickup or drop-off in the immediate region.

“Luckily there are several alternatives,” she said, citing nearby I-295 as well as the New Jersey Turnpike.

Zandi downplayed any economic impact from the highway collapse.

“I don’t think there will be any material economic fallout,” he said. “It’s a big nuisance for those that use that part of [I-95], but not an economic event.”

Galasso Trucking Services, which transports auto parts and food from the Port of Philadelphia, faces delivery delays as long as a half-hour, adding costs for labor and tolls, Lou Galasso, the company’s vice president, told ABC News.

For now, business is holding up, Galasso said.

“Mainly it’s an annoyance,” he added. “It’s a pain.”

ABC News’ Morgan Winsor and Amanda Maile contributed reporting.

Copyright © 2023, ABC Audio. All rights reserved.