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Road Buckles on I-20 Causing Massive Delays

April 17, 2017

The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) was forced to close all lanes of I-20 in DeKalb County after the roadway in the westbound high-speed lane buckled on Monday, April 17, 2017. The road failure occurred around noon. A motorcyclist suffered serious injuries when the cyclist struck the buckled road and flew off of his motorcycle. Some observers of the roadway deformity described the damage as if an earthquake struck the area. At first, GDOT and other officials were unsure why the road buckled as it did but they later ascertained the cause of the problem.

The damage to I-20 is just another in a string of bizarre and unanticipated events that have wreaked havoc on Atlanta commuters. On March 30, a massive fire melted I-85 near Piedmont Road that caused the span to collapse. During the Easter weekend, a tractor-trailer truck hauling chemicals overturned and spilled on the Downtown Connector forcing a road closure.

Motorists saw the events unfold in front of them. One motorist reported to Channel 2 that he and his wife were in the high-speed lane when the road surface almost bubbled up in front of them. They had no chance to avoid collision with the upward expanding surface. The car struck the growing deformity and went airborne then slammed down with such great force that the motorist thought he disabled his car. He and his wife watched in disbelief as they saw the road continue to bubble up.

The frightened man told Channel 2 that he began to worry about the motorcyclist that passed by him moments before he struck the debris. A witness to the crash said it looked like the motorcyclist dipped into the road. That motorcyclist did hit the buckled road and was violently thrown off of his bike, and the motorcycle landed about 50 yards away from the hole. He struck the ground with tremendous force and was critically injured after being thrown some 10 to 15 feet in the air, according to witnesses. As of Tuesday, the motorcyclist remained in intensive care at a local hospital for treatment for injuries caused by striking buckled road. It appeared that the man suffered a broken leg and had other fractures as well. One witness said that the man was unconscious before medical help arrived. Amazingly, while people tended to the man, the road continued to expand upward.

The GDOT was forced to shut down the road for several hours to identify what happened and why. Initial reports indicated that there was a gas leak under the highway, but the investigation revealed that was not the case. The GDOT was able to open two lanes by 4:30 p.m. Monday. By 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, the agency had completed the repairs and opened all lanes. Reopening all travel lanes relieved many commuters who are growing increasingly frustrated because of the I-85 traffic.

After the road was repaired, GDOT endeavored to determine what caused the road to buckle. Investigators learned that a crew contracted by Atlanta Gas Light was repairing a pipe beneath I-20 when the incident occurred. The crew members filled the pipe with concrete but injected too much. The excess concrete inserted into the pipe caused an overflow, resulting in pressure that caused the road to buckle. Fortunately, the recently overworked GDOT crews excavated the area and repaired the road surface.

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