I-85 Update: Milestone Reached As Crews Start Rebuilding Bridge
It has only taken eight days to clean up the pile of rubble that was once the span of I-85, which collapsed due to burning construction materials stored beneath the road. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, construction crews are now in the process of rebuilding the structure. Workers had to remove the debris that was once 700 feet of roadway. The waste contained steel I-beams, concrete, asphalt, and rebar. In addition to removing the rubble from the fallen bridge, crews had to demolish other pillars and sections which were deemed unsafe. Officials continue to maintain that they expect the work to be completed by June 15, 2017.
Now that the cleanup and demolition are complete, the rebuild can begin in earnest. The existing columns have been approved as structurally sound and can be used for rebuilding. Crews reinforced the pillars with concrete. Crews have started building new pillars to replace the ones which fell or were deemed to be unsafe. According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, the I-beams upon which crews will build the new road will be delivered starting April 15. Sixty-one I-beams are expected to start arriving on the 15th. These I-beams must be manufactured according to the specifications established by state and federal regulators.
The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) called the transition from cleanup to construction a significant milestone. GDOT, with the financial assistance of the federal government, must replace 350 feet of I-85 northbound that collapsed due to the fire on March 30. Crews must also replace 350 feet of I-85 southbound that was irreparably destroyed by the flames even though that span did not collapse.
The reconstruction remains on schedule despite some delays. According to the contractor hired by GDOT for the job, crews have been working 24 hours per day since the fire was extinguished to repair the road. Crews worked for as long as they could last Wednesday when severe thunderstorms, coupled with the threat of tornadoes, inundated the Atlanta area. Work was halted for the day due to the severity of the storms. Despite that temporary setback, the construction crews remain undaunted. GDOT recognized that the completion date is ambitious but remains steadfast in its commitment to getting the job done as promised.
The GDOT seems to comprehend the urgency of staying on schedule to re-open I-85. The mayor of Atlanta, Kasim Reed, told reporters recently that schools reopening after Spring Break on Monday would present a significant challenge to people who must use detours to avoid the damaged section of I-85. The Mayor has asked all non-essential city employees to be work at 10 a.m. instead of their usual start time to ease some of the traffic demands on the city. Mayor Reed asked private businesses to do the same and has asked private entities to have employees telecommute if at all possible.
Telecommuting, or starting later in the morning, is not possible for all workers. Understanding this, MARTA will be running trains every six minutes during the morning and afternoon rush hours. Ominously, Mayor Reed has warned motorists not to drive without less than a full tank of gas. The mayor expressed a genuine concern that motorists will get stranded along the road because they ran out of gas due to traffic congestion. The mayor reiterated that he was not expecting a typical Monday after school vacation and Atlanta residents should be prepared to face that challenge.
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