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Georgia DOT Plans to Reopen I-85 by June 15

April 05, 2017, by David Cullen - Also by this author

Image: Georgia Dept. of Transportation
Image: Georgia Dept. of Transportation
Georgia’s Department of Transportation is aiming to complete rebuilding of the stretch of I-85 that collapsed last week — slicing one of the main arteries through metropolitan Atlanta — by June 15, which would be roughly 10 weeks since the collapse.

A fire that erupted under the elevated roadway during the evening rush on March 30 consumed GDOT construction materials stored there. The highway, shrouded in flames and thick black smoke visible for miles, was shut down shortly before the fire burned so hot that it collapsed the bridge supports at about 7 p.m.

“At the governor’s urging, we are going to incentivize the completion of this work,” GDOT Director of Construction Marc Mastronardi said at an April 4 media briefing. “We have selected a date that we believe is aggressive but attainable and will offer a bonus for early completion.”

GDOT has chosen Marietta-based C.W. Mathews Contracting Company to lead the rebuilding effort. The agency said the firm was selected based on its availability, resources and experience providing a similar response to a tanker fire that damaged I-285 over SR 400 in 2001.

To expedite rebuilding, the contractor will be retrofitting the bridge columns, using concrete that will cure in 24 hours, and pre-fabricating some elements of the bridge, the agency said.

GDOT Commissioner Russell R. McMurry commented on the ongoing investigation of the cause of the collapse. “We have and continue to fully cooperate with the fire investigation by local officials,” he said. “We are not in a position to comment on certain aspects, but we can reiterate what we have already said. In an effort to save taxpayer dollars, GDOT chose to store the material [HDPE (high-density polyethylene) conduit] in hopes it could be used on another job. The material was stored on state property in a secured area with a locked gate. The area was breached by an individual or individuals who illegally trespassed on private, state-owned property, with devastating outcome. We are told by fire officials and media reports that the blaze was deliberately set and it subsequently spread to the HDPE."

McMurry also said he has requested the assistance of Georgia’s Office of Insurance and Safety Fire Commissioner and State Fire Marshal to conduct a joint review of GDOT’s storage procedures, practices and policies, "especially in proximity to bridges or other transportation infrastructure."

He also noted that GDOT will be joining with the National Transportation Safety Board as a party to the investigation of the fire and subsequent roadway collapse.

In addition, State Traffic Operations Engineer Andrew Heath said GDOT is “continuously improving” signal timing on the surface streets impacted by the closing of I-85 to help motorists deal with the new traffic patterns.

Here is the current status of the I-85 closure, as posted on April 5 by GDOT: 

  • A major fire on Thursday March 30 caused a section of I-85 to collapse. Both the northbound and southbound lanes are closed indefinitely between GA 400 and I-75. Traffic passing through the Atlanta area should use I-285 to bypass the closure
  • Local traffic may continue to use I-85 to the points of closure.  For southbound, this is up to the exit to GA 400 N.  At that point, all traffic must exit I-85.  In the northbound direction, drivers can get to Exit 86 (Buford Hwy / SR 13), and then must exit I-85
  • GA 400 southbound is also affected by this incident. Southbound traffic must exit at either Sidney Marcus Blvd or take the flyover ramp to I-85 Northbound. Traffic cannot continue on GA 400 South onto I-85 South

Go to www.511ga.org or call 511 locally for official up-to-date information about Georgia roadway conditions.

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