I-85 Collapse: Good News On State Of Repairs
The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) announced today that it expects I-85 in Buckethead to reopen on June 15, 2017. The announcement is great news for many Atlanta-area residents and commuters alike. The traffic situation has been nightmarish since Thursday after a large section of the Interstate collapsed when plastic piping and other materials stored beneath it were set on fire. Fire and law enforcement officials have developed sufficient evidence to charge a 39-year-old man with first-degree arson and first-degree criminal damage for starting the fire. The evidence suggests the man allegedly started the fire by putting a discarded sofa in a shopping cart and lighting the sofa on fire.
The GDOT announced, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, that it expects the demolition and repair to take a little over two months. The GDOT has offered incentives for contractors to work as efficiently and as safely as possible to complete the project as soon as possible. All interested parties want the work to be completed as quickly as possible to alleviate the overwhelming traffic conditions caused by the Interstate collapse.
Georgia Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency when the road fell. That maneuver allowed the GDOT to bypass certain environmental studies and bidding processes typically associated with constructing a highway. The GDOT and federal officials must find a way to reroute 250,000 vehicles that use the stretch of road daily. Traffic on I-275 and I-285 has increased between 50 and 70%. Local roads have also felt the impact of the Interstate closure. Traffic on the Cheshire Bridge Road usually accommodates 18,000 vehicles daily. The rate has more than doubled since the collapse. Approximately 40,000 vehicles are forced to use this road as a detour around I-85.
Construction crews are working 24 hours per day first to demolish portions of the Interstate that must be repaired then workers will haul the debris away. The lead contractor based out of Marietta has 30 to 40 crew members working per shift to get the job done. The demolition should be completed by the end of the work week. Once that work is complete, then construction will commence on building concrete pillars and placing concrete caps on top of the pillars. The area that construction companies must rebuild is larger than a football field.
Some of the construction is expected to be in place rather soon. The construction companies working on the project can rebuild the pillars and concrete caps quickly. The iron beams upon which the road will be constructed are not commercially available. Rather, the beams are manufactured to meet the specifications of the reconstructed road. The GDOT indicated that it expects the federal government to foot the bill for the repairs.
The rebuilding project has included the National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB). The NTSB along with state agencies are going to investigate whether the practice of storing construction materials underneath elevated roadways contributed to the disaster. PVC piping was stored under the highway span that collapsed. The heat generated by the burning PVC piping may have caused the roadway collapse. GDOT officials recognized that it might have played a role but admitted that they could not have possibly envisioned a scenario where burning construction material would cause the road to collapse.
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Sources: cited within and