by: Aaron Diamant Updated:
ATLANTA - It was one of the most-celebrated days in recent Atlanta history: the reopening of the repaired Interstate 85 bridge.
Drivers validated crews’ hard work by driving across the bridge when it opened last week but city officials have now officially marked the occasion at a ceremony Thursday afternoon.
Crews worked at an impressive rate -- finishing the new section of the interstate in six weeks.
[TIMELINE: In just 6 weeks, I-85 reopens for traffic]
Gov. Nathan Deal, the Georgia Department of Transportation and the U.S. Secretary of Transportation hosted a ceremonial ribbon cutting and rededication of the bridge off Piedmont Road.
"Well, today is a proud day for Atlanta. Today is a proud day for Georgia," Chao told Diamant minutes after the ribbon cutting Thursday.
"You're standing where it was burning, what does that feel like where the fire was for you?" Diamant asked Chao.
"It is nothing short of impressive and it speaks volumes about the teamwork of this community and this state in making this a reality," Chao said.
In his remarks, Deal thanked the secretary for releasing $10 million in federal aid less than 24 hours after the bridge came down to get the project going.
"But we were able to help, because the state and the city were ready to receive the assistance, and that was very important," Chao told Diamant.
Either way, Deal told Diamant he remains grateful.
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"Those were invaluable. To know that we weren't our own, that they were not going to be unresponsive, but in fact, quite the contrary," Deal said.
Chao called her trip to Atlanta and the collapse site an honor. At the podium, she praised the men and women of GDOT who oversaw the project and contractor C.W. Matthews, which worked around the clock to get it done.
"Doing it in less than seven weeks is a marvel of dedication, engineering and teamwork," Chao said.
With no reported injuries of fatalities, Chao also took time to commend first responders who fought the fire and members of the Georgia State Patrol who, within minutes of the fire, took steps to divert traffic away from the bridge and clear the cars on it.
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