Neilson moves quickly to continue I-95 reconstruction as budget negotiations break down
State Rep. Ed Neilson, D-Phila., moved quickly today to pass legislation to help repair Interstate 95 by extending Gov. Josh Shapiro’s emergency declaration before it expires in the coming days.
After a truck tanker caught fire and the extreme heat caused a portion of I-95 to collapse, Shapiro issued an emergency proclamation on June 12 to acquire federal emergency funds and cut through red tape to expedite the rebuilding of the collapsed road.
Due to a 2021 constitutional amendment, the governor’s proclamation expires after 21 days (on July 3) unless the General Assembly votes to extend it.
Neilson said this limitation was enacted to stop supposed overreach during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It will cause problems for the entire region if we don’t extend the proclamation,” Neilson said. “It will halt the reconstruction efforts and cause unnecessary delays in rebuilding this critical bridge.”
The House Transportation Committee, chaired by Neilson, unanimously approved S.R. 136, introduced by state Sen. Jimmy Dillon, whose district includes the collapsed portion of I-95.
Dillon’s bill originally extended the governor’s emergency declaration by one year to give the administration enough time and resources to complete the permanent reconstruction.
However, it was amended by the Senate Veterans Affairs & Emergency Preparedness Committee to only extend it to Nov. 1, 2023. It passed the Senate on June 28.
“We are running out of time, and we cannot let this issue get lost in the budget debate,” said Neilson. “I have been working closely with Senator Dillon since the collapse, and I thank him for his leadership on this issue.”
The House of Representatives previously passed Neilson’s H.R. 154 on June 26, which would have extended the governor’s emergency declaration until June 12, 2024.
Neilson said he was disappointed that the Senate had not considered H.R. 154 given the fast-approaching deadline.
“The administration, local contractors and members of the Philadelphia Building Trades worked 24/7 to reopen I-95 in just 12 days,” Neilson said. “They stepped up and did their job, now we need to do ours.”
While the highway reopened with six temporary travel lanes on Friday, June 23, it is not a permanent solution, Neilson explained.
Work must now begin on a permanent bridge replacement, he said.