BRIDGE COLLAPSE: Part of Piedmont Road reopened

by: Nicole Carr, Mark Winne, Nefertiti Jaquez, Steve Gehlbach Updated:

ATLANTA - Crews are working around clock to clean up and start repairing Interstate 85 after a massive fire that caused a bridge overpass to collapse, closing the interstate in both directions indefinitely.

Part of Piedmont Road reopened Monday early afternoon.

The Georgia Department of Transportation said at least three sections northbound and three sections southbound of I-85 will have to be totally replaced, which includes the section that collapsed.

Officials said it will take months to complete the repairs. 

“Somebody just made a really bad mistake,” John Daley told Channel 2's Nicole Carr.

Construction crews removed slabs of what used to be the interstate in the first step of restoration over the weekend. 


THE LATEST

  • Three people arrested in connection with fire that led to I-85 bridge collapse
  • One man charged with arson; given $200,000 bond
  • GDOT says repairs to I-85 will take months

"Construction is going to take some time. We really hope that the public will have some patience because it's a big project,” GDOT primary engineer Bill DuVall said in video update released on social media Sunday.

“Well looks like it's going to take a long time to get back together. I just wonder how all the traffic is going to get through,” Daley told Carr.

Carr spoke with Doug Neal Sunday night, who said it was easier to take his bike where he needed to go. 

"It's going to be a little inconvenient, but I just try to look at where I needed to go today and I said, 'You know what? Where I need to go I could get better on my bike,'" Neal told Carr. 

Gov. Nathan Deal has secured $10 million from the federal government to help with the repairs. 

Basil Eleby, 40, has been charged with arson in connection with the fire.

Statements from the couple he was with, now charged with only trespassing, say they were with Eleby to smoke crack and at one point watched Eleby "place a chair on top of a shopping cart, reach under the shopping cart and ignite it."

Eleby tried to waive the hearing and to get no bond.

The judge denied the request, and then said this is about trying to come up with a fair bond that would be in line with restitution for the damage done.

"But in this case, that would amount to a couple hundred million dollars,” Judge James Altman said. “My second inclination, on thinking about it, some kind of compensation to the victims is appropriate, but again, even at a dollar a person, that would amount to several million dollars."

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The judge issued a total of $200,000 bond for Eleby; $100,000 for arson and $100,000 for criminal damage to property.

Eleby’s preliminary hearing is set for April 14.

Eleby has been arrested several times before. He has been booked on charges including possession of marijuana and cocaine, criminal trespass, simple battery, and simple assault dating back to 1995.

[Officials say I-85 bridge repairs will take months]

The massive blaze started at about 6:15 p.m. Thursday beneath I-85 northbound near Piedmont Road.

Channel 2's Nefertiti Jaquez tracked down the two officers who first spotted the fire. 

"We saw smoke coming from out underneath the bridge. As we got closer, that's when we noticed the spool of conduit fire," Atlanta police Officer Ryan Severance said. 

"It just kept getting worse and worse and worse," Officer Jean Hernandez said. 

No one was injured in the fire.

"My main worry was the firefighters, because we know a lot of them and they were under there," Severance said. 

The Georgia Department of Transportation said it was storing noncombustible, high-density plastic pipe underneath the bridge. 

[PHOTOS: I-85 bridge collapse aftermath]

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