I-295 wall collapse under investigation; public forum scheduled

The New Jersey Department of Transportation says an investigation is still underway to find out why a retaining wall collapsed along a stretch of I-295 that is under construction in Bellmawr.

Video Transcript

- New information here at 4 o'clock about that construction mess on 295 in Bellmawr, Camden County. It's been a week now since part of that nearly $1 billion project suddenly collapsed, as you see there. Now part of the new work is being dismantled again. Action News is getting answers about exactly what's going on here, how this could have happened. Action News New Jersey correspondent Trish Hartman live now near the scene of that collapse. What have you found out, Trish?

TRISH HARTMAN: Well, Brent, we talked to several different officials at the local and state level today. We'll give you a look at the wall from this vantage point. It looks a little different than it did last week. Workers have been out here all day for the past several days. Now that right lane on the ramp right next to it will remain closed until further notice to make room for equipment. New Jersey Department of Transportation says an investigation is still underway to find out why this happened and how this will affect the timeline of the project.

Workers are taking down the damaged portion of the collapsed retaining wall along I-295 in Bellmawr after reinforcing the existing structure. Commuters like Nate Linker drive through this area as part of their daily drive.

NATE LINKER: It's pretty much traffic every single day, every morning.

TRISH HARTMAN: The $900 million project is called Direct Connection and aims to improve the junction between 76, 42, and 295. It was previously estimated to be completed in 2024. This map shows where the wall collapse occurred. A spokesperson for the New Jersey Department of Transportation confirms even before the wall collapsed last week the completion date had been pushed back to 2028, leaving many drivers frustrated.

NATE LINKER: I would think I have another decade to look forward to of the same thing every morning.

TRISH HARTMAN: Officials say they don't know yet how much this has set them back. The DOT is in the process of investigating what happened. After hearing from concerned residents, several lawmakers sent a letter to the transportation commissioner asking for a public meeting. Assemblyman Bill Moen says she accepted and will participate in a virtual public forum on Wednesday evening via Zoom.

BILL MOEN: To hear that the commissioner was willing to join us in a meeting to really give a full accounting to the public was something that I was encouraged by.

TRISH HARTMAN: Drivers hope officials will be forthcoming with answers.

LOU GALLINARO: Somebody missed something. I don't know I don't know much about it. But I don't imagine that was supposed to happen.

TRISH HARTMAN: Now the contract for this portion of the project was awarded to a company called South State Inc. based in Bridgeton, New Jersey. We also reached out to them today. They had no comment.

Reporting live in Bellmawr, New Jersey, Trish Hartman, Channel 6 Action News. Brian.

- OK, we'll stay on this one. Chris, thank you.