I-85 Reopens One Month Ahead Of Schedule
We are happy to report that Interstate 85 has reopened one full month ahead of schedule, according to the Atlanta Journal Constitution. As of Saturday evening, travel in the southbound direction began one day after the northbound section opened, much to the delight of metropolitan area travelers. Monday morning commuters were likely pleased to have their trip to work and school resume as they experienced it before the fire on March 30, 2017 that destroyed the bridge above Piedmont Road. The entire reconstruction project lasted only six weeks.
The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) in conjunction with the construction contractor hired by the state to rebuild the fallen span initially established a target date of June 15. That date seemed ambitious given the amount of damage the fire caused. One section collapsed from the heat of the fire. The fire weakened the structural integrity of an adjacent section of roadway beyond salvation and repair. Construction crews demolished and replaced that section of the road as well.
GDOT officials anticipated that traffic re-routed around the site would choke off many roads. They were right and pleaded for people to seek alternate routes and modes of transportation to work and school. Commuters obliged.
According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, ridership on the MARTA railway system increased 25%. Local corporations adapted to the dilemma as well. They encouraged employees to telecommute or stagger their working hours so they would avoid sitting in gridlocked traffic for as much as two hours before getting to work. Furthermore, schools and some governmental agencies altered their work hours in response to the traffic problems the I-85 closure caused. Officials expressed hope that people would continue to seek commuting alternatives to help reduce traffic congestion on the roads.
The reconstruction cost expected to reach $16.6 million. That sum would include $3.1 million in incentives for the construction contractor if the company completed the bridge reconstruction before the announced reopening date of June 15. To the construction contractor's credit, the company engaged crews to work around the clock to complete the project.
GDOT officials acknowledge that they were the beneficiaries of some luck getting the road open as quickly as they did. GDOT said that the good weather the area experienced allowed crews to work 24 hours per day and seven days a week, with some exceptions. The construction contractor used quick drying concrete. The special mix is a little more expensive than the concrete that crews commonly use. The added expense appears justified in this instance.
According to GDOT, safety was not compromised for the sake of expediency. GDOT dispatched safety inspectors to the construction site daily to make certain that the construction crews observed all safety requirements. GDOT officials assure the motoring public that "no corners" were cut.
Local businesses expressed pleasure upon learning I-85 would reopen well in advance of GDOT's target date. A popular liquor store that operates its business in close proximity to the construction site suffered a steep decline in sales during the reconstruction period. The traffic that would normally travel on I-85 used Piedmont Road instead. The suffocating traffic on Piedmont Road made it virtually impossible to shop at the store. On the other hand, a local pizza parlor experienced an increase in business from weary travelers who would stop in for food and give themselves a break from sitting in gridlock for a while.
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