ATLANTA — The section of Interstate 85 near Piedmont Road will remain closed for the foreseeable future following the collapse of the southbound lane Thursday night after the roadway was engulfed in flames.
The Ga. Department of Transportation is calling for major repairs to the bridge for both the southbound and northbound lanes as well as possible replacements for adjacent road sections.
“The extent of the fire-related damage necessitates extensive reconstructive activities to ensure the safety of motorists,” said GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry.
At least 350 feet of roadway will have to be replaced, and the Secretary of Transportation has already authorized a release of $10 million to help repair the damages.
Dangerous conditions in the area have been limiting the amount of information the department can currently collect about the damages and reconstruction efforts. Crews are unable to fully access the site because of “hotspots,” but GDOT is already expecting months-worth of repairs.
“We are not able to give you a firm estimate at this moment,” McMurry said. “But this will take at least several months to get this rebuilt.”
The Chamblee Tucker, Shallowford, Clairmont and North Druid Hills ramps on I-85 will remain closed indefinitely during repairs. Some 400,000 cars travel that section of highway each day.
Design work on the damaged sections began the night the road collapsed and is being updated as more information comes in, McMurry said.
The fire started in an area of the state’s right of way which was being used as a storage location for construction materials, equipment and supplies such as PVC piping.
However, the site was secured and the piping material is non-combustible, McMurry said.
GDOT does not yet know how the fire started.
“We are as eager to learn the cause of this fire as anyone,” McMurry said. “We will continue to work closely and in full cooperation with fire investigator to determine exactly how the fire was started.”
No one was injured or killed as a result of the fire or collapse.
Gov. Nathan Deal has declared a state of emergency for Fulton County.
“The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety and minimize disruption of traffic as we continue emergency response efforts,” Deal said. “As this safety investigation and bridge assessment continues, we encourage the public to avoid the affected area, remain patient and allow first responders to perform their jobs.
“We will continue updating the public on alternative traffic routes and other information as it becomes available.”
GDOT and other local transit agencies are working to identify all possible options for commuters including Xpress Bus Service and Peach Pass express lanes and safe, alternative traffic routes.
MARTA is providing additional services such as increased rail services to accommodate the influx of passengers. The rail services have not been compromised, but bus lines 6, 27, 30, 33 and 47 are affected by the collapse.
Motorists are encouraged to visit dot.ga.gov or follow GDOT on Facebook for the latest updates.