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NTSB Issues Report on I-84 Bridge Collapse

Wednesday, April 18, 2018

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A newly released report from the National Transportation Safety Board indicates the Georgia Department of Transportation is partly responsible for the fire that destroyed part of Interstate 85 in Atlanta in March 2017.

According to the Board’s findings, GDOT stored construction materials—namely 76 reels of high-density polyethylene conduit and nine racks of fiberglass conduit—under the bridge, which contributed to the inferno and led to the bridge collapse.

Bridge Collapse

The stretch of I-85 that collapsed, reportedly about 100 feet long, was the northbound section of the Northeast Expressway, running between the Buford Spring Connector (Route 13) and another viaduct carrying southbound lanes of I-85. According to GDOT, bridge inspectors sent to the site determined that the southbound viaduct had also sustained structural damage.

National Transportation Safety Board

The National Transportation Safety Board recently released a report that indicates the Georgia Department of Transportation is partially responsible for the fire that destroyed part of I-85 in Atlanta in March 2017.

The stretch of viaduct that collapsed was constructed of concrete, with concrete piers. I-85 in Atlanta was originally constructed in the 1950s, and the section affected by the fire was part of an expansion and realignment that took place in the 1990s, according to All About Roads’ Interstate Guide.

The start of the fire was attributed to Basil Eleby, a homeless man who was using drugs when he set fire to a chair on top of a shopping cart. The cart melted, and the fire spread to the high-density plastic conduit.

NTSB Report

Once the fire was brought under control at the time of the incident, heavy equipment operators working under GDOT uncovered burned and crushed reels of conduit in the area of the fire. The high fuel load contributed to the flames, resulting in an increase in heat that subsequently led to the collapse of the bridge. These materials were what remained from an earlier project on State Route 400 and were secured behind a chain-link fence.

NTSB investigators requested a list of all other locations in the state where GDOT was storing similar materials under bridge structures; GDOT found no other such instances. It was discovered, however, that the Highway Emergency Response Operators unit met under I-85 regularly, near the site of the bridge collapse. There, the staff meet for safety meetings and shift changes. The HERO unit was found to comply with all state requirements.

The Federal Highway Administration has also noted that once the NTSB investigation is complete, it would update its own report related to the incident and continue to disseminate any further information.

“Further, the FHWA encouraged bridge owners to direct inspectors, during their routine inspections, to be mindful of materials stored under bridges and to communicate any concerns to the bridge inspection program manager,” noted the NSTB in its findings.


Tagged categories: Bridges; Federal Highway Administration (FHWA); Fire; Government; Health & Safety; Infrastructure; NA; North America; Roads/Highways

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