I-85 Collapse: What Took An Hour To Destroy Will Take Months To Rebuild
Firefighters needed about one hour to extinguish the flames that caused the collapse of I-85. Now officials say it will be many months before everything is back to normal. Meanwhile, Atlanta-area residents will be deprived of the use of a major thoroughfare connection to all parts of the Southeast. The Interstate collapse is expected to have a such a tremendous effect on Georgia's residents and businesses that Governor Nathan Deal has declared a state of emergency.
The I-85 collapse raises many questions. Unfortunately, there are few answers at this early hour in the rebuilding process. Rebuilding will take time. But, life must go on. Students must attend school and workers must report to jobs. The people of Atlanta will adapt.
Has the cause of the fire been determined?
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, fire and arson investigators have not determined a final cause of the fire. Reports suggest that someone intentionally ignited materials stored or were "available" beneath the bridge. The newspaper cited a source suggesting that someone filled a shopping cart with flammable materials and set it ablaze. The PVC piping running under the bridge looks to have played a role in the collapse.
Has law enforcement charged anyone in connection with the fire?
Law enforcement officers charged three people with crimes relating to setting the fire that lead to the road collapse. Officials have charged one man with arson, first-degree criminal damage to property, and criminal trespass. Officers allege that the man was smoking crack under the bridge when he placed an old chair in a shopping cart and lit it on fire. Law enforcement officers allege that two other people were with the man at the time. Police charged them with criminal trespass. Moreover, the 39-year-old man who allegedly started the fire has a long history of criminal behavior, mostly related to drug activity.
What alternatives are available for commuters?
The Georgia Department of Transportation indicated that both northbound and southbound sections of I-85 are closed between the I-75/Brookwood split and the North Druid Hills exit. There is no word yet on when the road in either direction might reopen. For the time being, Georgia DOT representatives are asking travelers to use I-285 to avoid the area. Officials have suggested alternate routes and have also suggested using a "wayfinding" application available on smartphones to help navigate around the road closures.
Furthermore, MARTA plans on increased ridership. Ridership was up 25% the day after the fire and increased 45-50% on Monday at many locations.
How long will it take to rebuild and who will pay for all of this?
Rebuilding and repairing more than 250 feet of the collapsed road and the support columns around it will take a long time. Officials have not provided the public with a figure but indicated that it would be "several months" before the road is open again.
The federal government is expected to contribute $10 million in emergency funds to help rebuild the road. Governor Deal spoke with President Trump who promised his support with the reconstruction efforts. There is no word yet as to the final cost of the cleanup and restoration project.
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