GDOT says demolition work complete at I-85 collapse site

ATLANTA — Crews are working quickly to repair the collapsed portion of Interstate 85.

They have been working 24-7 for just more than a week, and the demolition work is already complete.

[READ: I-85 fire suspect indicted on multiple charges]

Construction crews will now shore up salvageable columns.

The Georgia Department of Transportation expects to start pouring concrete soon.


Officials are pleased with the progress at the construction site.

"Right now, the pace is incredible. This is the best we can hope for, to really be through with that heavy demolition and be at the point where we're pouring concrete tonight. That's an incredible accomplishment, said  Marc Mastronardi, GDOT construction director.

Mastronardi said the project is on track for the mid-June completion date GDOT announced earlier this week.

A suspected arsonist set the fire that quickly spread to large amounts of surplus polyurethane and fiberglass pipe, which GDOT stored underneath the Piedmont Road overpass for years.

The storage did not violate any agency policy or state regulation, but Channel 2's Aaron Diamant uncovered a warning from 20 years ago about storing materials under bridges.

"This isn't the first time this has happened," said Joseph Hacker, a public management professor at Georgia State University.

Hacker sat on a regional transportation authority in Pennsylvania in 1996 when a massive tire fire underneath interstate 95, just north of downtown Philadelphia, compromised a long stretch of the highway and closed it for months or repairs.

The state's deputy highway secretary issued a strike-off letter, obtained Friday by Channel 2 Action News, in which he called the fire-damaged bridge a "double-threat to the public."

Hacker helped push for the new proactive policies the letter ordered.

"They do inspections. They're much clearer about what's going on where, and I think that's the kind of thing we'll see here," he said.

GDOT confirmed its working with the state fire marshal for a review of its storage practices, but at least one metro-Atlanta congressman wants more.

"I think we need a rule, a federal rule, that bans the storage of construction materials underneath bridges," Rep. Hank Johnson said.

The National Transportation and Safety Board has launched its own review, which could lead to nationwide safety recommendations.

A man accused of starting the fire that led to the interstate collapse was indicted Friday.

Basil Eleby was indicted on charges of arson and criminal damage to property, according to the Fulton County District Attorney's office.

GDOT officials update I-85 bridge project

WATCH LIVE: GDOT officials provide update on I-85 bridge reconstruction. Live coverage on Channel 2 Action News starting at 4

Posted by WSB-TV on Friday, April 7, 2017