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Fire-Damaged GA Bridge Slated to Open Early

Thursday, May 11, 2017

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Proclaiming it a “day of celebration,” Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal announced at a press conference at the state Capitol on Wednesday (May 10) that the Interstate 85 bridge over Piedmont Road in Atlantaa portion of which sustained fire damage and collapsed in Marchwould reopen in time for Monday’s rush hour.

"This is an extraordinarily short period of time to complete such a major project," Deal said during the press conference. "It would not have happened without the efficiency of the state DOT, its allied agencies and the exceptional work of the contractor."

Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry said at the press conference that the northbound lanes probably will open Saturday, and the southbound lanes sometime Sundaya full month ahead of the June 15 deadline for completion. He added that the construction process benefited from only one full day lost because of rain.

Contractor C.W. Matthews had reason to complete the $16.6 million project quickly: The firm would earn up to $3.1 million in incentives for finishing early.

The stretch of I-85 that collapsed, which is reportedly about 100 feet long, was the northbound section of the Northeast Expressway. It runs between the Buford Spring Connector (Route 13) and another viaduct carrying southbound lanes of I-85. The stretch of viaduct that collapsed was constructed of concrete, with concrete piers.

Fire’s Cause

I-85 has been closed in in the area between U.S. Route 400 and Midtown since March 30, when a fire allegedly set by a homeless man caused an overpass portion to collapse. The blaze spread to construction materials the Georgia Department of Transportation stored under the bridge. 

Basil Eleby, 39, was charged with setting the fire, allegedly sparking it by setting a chair on fire in a shopping cart. A court document indicated Eleby was smoking crack cocaine at the time.

Eleby was charged with first-degree arson and criminal damage to property. He is being held on $200,000 bond. Two other people, Sophia Bruner and Barry Thomas, were charged with criminal trespass in connection with the incident.

Costs mounting

Georgia Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Meg Pirkle said the final tab for associated costexpanded transit service, employee overtime, traffic control, the cost of detour signs—is not yet available, but would be in the millions of dollars. The federal government is expected to pay the entire amount.

Photos courtesy of Georgia Department of Transportation

Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry said the northbound lanes of the I-85 bridge probably will open Saturday, and the southbound lanes sometime Sunday--a full month ahead of the June 15 deadline for completion.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has already paid $10 million toward the cost of building the new bridge.

“We know we’re going to need more than $10 million, and we’ll be requesting that from the Federal Highway Administration,” Pirkle told the state House of Representatives Transportation Committee on Tuesday (May 9).

Rounding Into Shape

McMurry noted there are a few maintenance steps remaining before the bridge reopens.

“We have to install the expansion joints between each of the beam sets,” he said. “We have to complete pouring the concrete side barrier, both north and southbound, and that concrete needs strength on it before (the bridge opens). We don’t want anybody bumping into it or hitting it, so that has to be strong.

“We have electrical work still to be done in the median to install the street lights, and of course, as with any project, you have final clean-up, sweeping up construction debris and things like that.”

McMurry added that rebuilding the bridge required more than 700 feet of reconstructed roadway, 61 beams, 13 support columns, more than 500,000 pounds of new reinforced steel, and over 230 truckloads of concrete.

"Absolutely it is safe," McMurry said. "Safety is built into this process.”

Rebuilding the bridge required more than 700 feet of reconstructed roadway, 61 beams, 13 support columns, more than 500,000 pounds of new reinforced steel, and over 230 truckloads of concrete.

The Georgia Department of Transportation has logged more than 3,500 man-hours of on-site inspections, which include examining fabricated steel beams off-site and inspecting them again for size and spacing on-site. Inspectors also sampled and tested the concrete before it was poured.


Tagged categories: Accidents; Bridges; Construction; Roads/Highways

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