ATLANTA - The Georgia DOT has been working, non-stop since the fire and collapse of I-85 on March 30th. Thousands of people worked behind the scenes to get this bridge back open, and traffic flowing again.
The DOT Director of Construction, Marc Mastronardi, says he watched the massive fire under I-85 from his TV, as he sat down for dinner on March 30th. He said, he kissed his wife, told her he'd be back home in a few days, and he went straight to work, helping to get the construction moving. Fast forward about six weeks, and I-85 is back to normal this morning.
DOT leaders call it an unprecedented event. The massive fire that caused the collapse of one of the city's main arteries. Now, after just more than six weeks of around the clock work, the interstate is open earlier than first planned.
"We are so fortunate. Nearly everything that could go in our favor, did," says Mastronardi.
Within the first 24 hours after the collapse, crews were clearing debris, designing the reconstruction plan, and sending those plans to contractors. Meanwhile, traffic management teams put their emergency traffic plans into place. "We knew the available routes. We knew I-285 was an obvious detour route. What we quickly assessed was what would be the impact on Buford Spring Connector and on those local roads in that Buckhead area," Mastronardi adds.
An emergency $10-million from the federal government gave the state the ability to fast track the contract, a process that normally takes months.
"We've been asked a lot about why can't every project occur this fast, and the truth of it is, you never want this scenario. This scenario is a loss of structure, every bit of traffic is detoured away from the construction site. That gives you full 24/7 access to the site," Mastronardi states.
With few rain delays, a $3.1 million dollar incentive and that 24/7 access, contractors went to work quickly. Crews were also able to use an expensive, but fast curing concrete. "In terms of the concrete that we used, the high early strength concrete, it's in the ballpark of double the cost, but we certainly knew the value in that in getting the road opened."
Despite the speed, an estimated 3,500 to 4,000 man hours were used on inspecting the bridge throughout the construction. "It's rather remarkable to look at it now, where we are. We're going to gather when it's over and we're going to go through a lessons learned," explains Mastronardi.
One thing they're quick to praise though, is the teamwork that went into this massive construction effort. "Everybody came together and pulled for one common goal."
While the bridge may be back open, the DOT moved up a resurfacing project in that area, so don't be surprised to still see construction crews along that corridor until that work is finished.