BRIDGE COLLAPSE: I-85 repairs will take months

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ATLANTA - Three people are in custody after a fire that caused a bridge to collapse on I-85, according to the state fire marshal's office. 

Basil Eleby has been charged with first degree criminal damage to property and two others are charged with criminal trespass. Authorities have not said what led to them to the charges.

[READ MORE: 3 charged in connection with fire that led to I-85 collapse]

Georgia’s Department of Transportation is working to determine the extent of the damage caused by a massive fire near the Buford-Spring Street Connector.

GDOT began its assessment of the damage Thursday before the fire was even extinguished, Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurray said Friday.

Channel 2’s Aaron Diamant got an exclusive tour of the damage Friday with the Georgia Department of Public Safety.

[MINUTE-BY-MINUTE updates: I-85 fire, bridge collapse]

Demolition crews are already working to remove tons of crushed concrete and look for clues as to how coils of non-combustible high-density plastic pipe, which GDOT stored underneath the bridge, caught fire.

“So the storage area under the bridge was storing normal highway construction materials. The PVC material has been there for some time, probably since 2006 or 7,” McMurry said. 


THE LATEST:

  • GDOT says at least three sections northbound and three sections southbound will have to be replaced at the site of the collapse
  • Repairs will take at least a few months
  • Department of Public Safety says the area of the bridge collapse is "now is a construction site"
  • Take I-285; use MARTA as alternates to I-85, authorities say
  • Atlanta fire chief says he does not know what caused the fire

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

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Both northbound and southbound lanes of I-85, as well as several roads in northeast Atlanta, were closed for hours Thursday and into Friday. Interstate 85 will remain closed as crews rebuild the bridge on both sides.

“We are underway with designs now to replace the damaged area,” McMurray said. “This is a dynamic situation, and we’re learning as much as we can as time unfolds.”

[ALTERNATE ROUTES: Get around the I-85 bridge collapse]

So far, McMurray said they know that at least three sections northbound and three sections southbound will have to be totally replaced, which includes the section that collapsed.

 

 

"That is a total of approximately 350 feet in each direction, and it includes rebuilding the support columns that hold up the bridge itself, McMurray said."

 

 

GDOT said it is aware everyone wants to know when the reconstruction will be complete.

“We’re not able to give you a firm estimate at this moment, but you should know this will take at least a few months,” McMurray said. “It will take at least several months to rebuild.”

Atlanta Fire is leading the investigation to determine how the fire started.

[PHOTOS: Massive fire causes I-85 bridge to collapse]

“We don’t know what caused the fire and it’s going to take us a while to get our crews inside to do a full-scale investigation,” Atlanta Fire Chief Joel Baker said.

An ATF-certified fire investigator was at the scene Thursday night and ATF is lending its expertise in determining the cause and origin of the fire as part of the investigation.

Fire investigators from the state fire marshal’s office have also been on the scene to work with Atlanta Fire.

Baker said the fire department will send evidence to the Georgia Bureau of Investigation, if needed, as the investigation unfolds.

“We’re working hand-in-hand with GDOT,” Baker said of the investigation.

Atlanta police captain Michael Butler said traffic is APD’s key job right now.

[8 things to know about the I-85 bridge collapse]

“The hard closures are the important posts that we have,” he said.

No one was injured in the fire or collapse.