Georgia DOT crews have been working around the clock to reopen the bridge over Piedmont Road in Atlanta since the March 30 collapse.
Commuters who have had to uproot their traffic patterns around midtown Atlanta due to the collapsed I-85 bridge over Piedmont Road can now break out in a happy dance, as the Georgia Gov. Nathan Deal has announced the interstate will reopen by Monday.
Yes, you read that correctly. Monday, May 15. Less than a week away, more than a week ahead of the previous projection that the rebuilding could be done by Memorial Day weekend, and a month before the original June 15 time frame given by officials.
Gov. Nathan Deal’s announcement was made Wednesday morning in a press conference held with Georgia DOT Commissioner Russell McMurry.
“I am pleasantly surprised by the short time frame and we all should be,” Gov. Deal said. “As I said earlier, it is a testament to the dedication of a lot of people and we should all be thankful for that, but this is a good news story today.”
The announcement comes more than week after GDOT officials predicted the bridge over Piedmont Road would reopen by Memorial Day weekend, which was a surprising prediction, as the state initially believed it could get the project done by June 15.
However, last month, GDOT announced up to $3 million in incentives would be awarded to C.W. Matthews Contracting Company if it was able to deliver the project before the June 15 date. If completed by May 25, the company will receive an additional $1.5 million. If completed by May 21, they will receive $2 million and an additional $200,000 for each day completed before May 21; up to a maximum of $3.1 million.
“While this situation has been a tremendous challenge, the response from the people of Georgia has been nothing less than remarkable,” Deal added in a prepared statement. “Thehas worked around the clock to rebuild sections of roadway in both directions and reopen the corridor quickly and safely.”
Deal also states GDOT estimates about $27 million in motorists savings will be achieved due to the early completion.
“In Georgia, we get things done, and we have risen to the occasion for I-85 to be completed as efficiently and effectively as possible,” he added.
GDOT announced that it believes the cost to demolish and rebuild a new structure will be about $13.5 million.
This segment of I-85 carries more than 240,000 vehicle each day. With that in mind, the federal government kicked in an additional $10 million in funding to fast-track the project.
“We knew that the closure of the corridor would have a major impact on local and regional travel,” said McMurry. “We have been laser-focused not only on rapid construction, but also on safety and efficiency. Six weeks is an amazingly short time frame to complete this project. At the same time, it is probably the most inspected, most scrutinized construction project Georgia DOT has ever undertaken, with our inspectors working on site around the clock. We did our due diligence each day and every step of the way.”
Along with rebuilding the bridge, GDOT also said it will resurface I-85 between the Brookwood Interchange at I-75 and Clairmont Road. The agency expects to complete the resurfacing work within the portion that was closed in time for the May 15 morning rush hour.
The March 30 fire and collapse not only took out the entire northbound side of the interstate, but heavily damaged the southbound lanes of the highway. As a result, crews need to replace about 350 feet of concrete on both the northbound and southbound side of the interstate.
Three people were arrested and charged in connection to the fire. One suspect, Basil Eleby, was charged with arson and criminal damage to property in the first degree. Sophia Brauer and Barry Thomas, were each charged with criminal trespassing. Eleby was subsequently indicted on those charges, and has since bonded out of the Fulton County Jail.
Images via Andrea Briscoe