ATLANTA - The middle of June is when the Georgia Department of Transportation is expecting the I-85 bridge to be rebuilt.
The initial timeline given soon after the collapse said the rebuild could take until the end of the year. The department said a combination of factors is why they are able to complete the project within 10 weeks.
GDOT will use the same beams the interstate is built on and wrap them in new material. They also did not go through the traditional bidding process for contractors.
Demolition of the bridge is expected to be completed Tuesday evening and contractor CW Matthews has been hired for this project. CW Matthews completed other road projects in the state, including work on GA 400.
The contractor has financial incentives to complete the project on time and ahead of time. There are also financial penalties if the project takes longer than projected. GDOT feels confident that the project could be completed safely in those 10 weeks.
In the meantime, traffic will continue to be an issue despite the efforts GDOT is making to relieve congestion on surface streets.
"We anticipate traffic to continue to be challenging throughout the rebuild," State Traffic Operations Engineer Andrew Heath said.
The department has noted dramatic reductions in traffic on I-85 in areas that are open and on GA 400. They also noted significant increases in traffic on surface streets. For instance, Heath said volume on Cheshire Bridge has increased from 18,000 vehicles a day to 40,000. This is an increase of 122.2 percent. On Peachtree Road, volume has increased from 40,000 vehicles a day to 55,000.
The federal investigation into what lead to the fire continues. GDOT commissioner Russell R. McMurry detailed what was under the bridge that fed the fire. Hear his explanation, below.
The National Transportation and Safety Board is now investigating the incident. GDOT said they are also conducting a joint review that will include a look at policies state-wide. The Atlanta City Council also called for an independent investigation. C.T. Martin, chairman of the council’s transportation committee, is questioning why flammable materials were stored under the bridge without sprinkler protection or other fire hazard precautions.
The commissioner said they will work with the investigators. "We certainly will support the Atlanta Fire Chief Baker and all their efforts....we will be fully cooperative."
McMurray said storing the materials under the bridge was not in violation of any policy but said if they could predict the future, they would have chosen a different option.
"If we knew then what we know now, we would not have stored it there," he said.
He said the main reason the HDPE materials were stored under the bridge was because the department did not want to be wasteful after a construction project along GA 400 was stopped.
"GDOT had already paid for this material so we stored it...In an effort to save tax payer dollars, GDOT chose those to store the material so that it could be used in another project," McMurray said.
$10 MILLION IN FEDERAL FUNDS
The $10 million in emergency federal aid is only the beginning of what it will cost to repair I-85 but it is a start, "We fully expect the first 10 million to make a big difference in the overall cost of this process," McMurray said.
"We do know that there are other federal funds available. This was a quick release of federal funds to get the money quickly."
The full cost has not been determined but GDOT and federal agencies are conducting different analyses to determine that figure. It has also not been determined how much money Georgia taxpayers will spend on the reconstruction.
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