The Georgia Department of Transportation has been working nonstop since a section of an Interstate 85 bridge collapsed on Thursday, March 30, after a fire broke out underneath. Engineers and construction management expect to reopen the bridge sometime in mid-June.
During a press conference on Tuesday, April 4, GDOT Director of Construction Marc Mastronardi announced that traffic to the I-85 bridge in Atlanta should reopen in fewer than 10 weeks or June 15. Between 80 and 85 percent of the demolition has been completed and is expected to be 100 percent finished sometime on Wednesday, April 5.
At approximately 6:12 p.m. on Thursday, March 30, the Atlanta fire department was dispatched after several calls about a fire on the I-85 bridge just south of GA 400, according to Fire Chief Joel Baker. Fires crews showed up at approximately 6:20 p.m. At around 7 p.m. a section of the northbound bridge collapsed with the southbound section receiving significant damage from the fire, requiring replacement for both.
GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry said on Tuesday that the blaze was set deliberately. Local authorities and the fire department are working with the National Transportation Safety Board in the investigation.
Basil Eleby, 39, has been charged with two felonies: first-degree arson and first-degree criminal damage to property, according to Tracy Flanagan, senior public affairs officer at Fulton County Sheriff’s Office. Two others who were with Eleby have been charged with trespassing. Eleby is being held on a $200,000 bond. The others were released.
According to GDOT, the area where the fire originated was being used to store construction materials, equipment and supplies below the bridge. Materials including PVC piping and other non-combustible high-density plastic conduit were being stored. The location was a secured area.
McMurry said on Tuesday that the high-density polyethylene conduit and fiber glass conduit was owned by GDOT to install advanced traffic management systems such as cameras, digital signs and ramp meters for State Route 400. The project bid was in 2007, and the materials were moved to its current location at Piedmont Road sometime in 2011. GDOT did not break any storage rules as keeping leftover materials under bridges is standard procedure across the nation.
GDOT Chief Engineer Meg Pirkle said that beam fabrication is among the most critical aspects of the bridge reconstruction. Plans for fabrications were completed within three days with a full replacement plan expected to be completed in another three days. Mastronardi said fabricated beams should start arriving in mid-April, and full delivery expected by the end of the month.
Built in 1984, the bridge was last inspected in August 2015. During the inspection, the bridge received a “Good” rating and was deemed structurally adequate for its age.
Pirkle said that a temporary structure to carry traffic is not feasible.
Detours are as followed:
- 75/I-85 northbound traffic diverted to the Buford Spring Connector.
- SR 400SB to I-85SB is closed. Traffic diverted to I-85NB. Last available exit is Sidney Marcus Blvd.
- I-85 SB is closed. Traffic diverted to SR 400NB. Last available exit is Lenox/Cheshire Bridge.
- Buford Spring Connector is open from Piedmont Road southbound.
- I-75SB ramp to I-85NB ramp is now open.
A detour map can be found by clicking here.