Piedmont Road closed for I-85 bridge construction

Businesses feeling impact of Piedmont Road closure

ATLANTA — The Georgia Department of Transportation has shut down busy Piedmont Road at the Interstate 85 reconstruction site Tuesday, and the shutdown is expected to have major effects on the surrounding roads.

GDOT said it needed to close Piedmont Road to install new beams for the I-85 bridge.

The road is closed from Piedmont Circle on south side to Lakeshore on north side.

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Channel 2's Steve Gehlbach was there as crews starting bringing beams to the construction site.

Signs are warning drivers that the road will be closed until 9 a.m. Wednesday.

Weather permitting, the Georgia Department of Transportation said contractors will work overnight to set beams for the I-85 bridge project.

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The work requires continuous lane closures on Piedmont Road during the 24 hours.

The Buford-Spring Connector is open to traffic, but the southbound access ramp from Piedmont Road to the Buford-Spring Connector is closed.

"This stage of the project represents yet another critical milestone in Georgia DOT's stated goal of reopening I-85 on or before June 15," the transportation department said in a news release.

Drivers are advised to find alternate routes during the closure.

Some were preparing for a longer-than-normal commute.

"I hope they get this stuff fixed fast," driver Mark Curry said Tuesday. "Oh man, it's going to be a mess."

Barely 100 yards from the construction site, Marga Vargas, better known to everyone as Mama, of Mama's Cocina Latina, is fretting over the closure.

She told Channel 2's Richard Elliot that her business is down by as much as 75 percent, and now she doesn't even plan to open on Tuesday.

“We have to close because we're going to pay labor, electricity, everything, and nobody comes in, so we have to close, and to close is to lose a lot of money in one day,” Vargas said.

Just another 200 yards or so down Piedmont Road is Gino's New York Pizza, which seems to be thriving.

Owner Amy Gerrtiz told Elliot that the restaurant is doing very well, especially its delivery business, which, she said, is booming.

A lot of drivers, it seems, get sick of sitting in traffic and stop in for a slice.

"I've actually had a lot of customers say, 'We just got tired of sitting in traffic so we just decided to pull over.
I've never been here before.' That's good! That's really good," Gerrtiz said.

Vargas said construction workers coming in for lunch are helping business a little, so she's offering something special if they can get the repair job done early.

“I hope the construction is going to finish before the time, June 15. They finish before, I promise all the construction workers free lunch that day,” Vargas said.

Employees at Tower Beer Wine and Spirits told Channel 2's Chris Jose they are also hurting for business.

“It’s just not many people coming in at all, I don't know if they know we're open, to be honest,” manager Lindsey Berg said. “If continues like this, it'll definitely be a decrease in sales.”

When Jose asked her how much, Berg said she's estimating thousands of dollars in lost business.

Customers brave enough to make the drive fought their way through traffic.

“I turned off Peachtree Hills and it's back up all the way to here. I think I'll be using evasive maneuvers to get back to midtown,” customer Jim Lenahan said.

Jose also spoke to some businesses who considered shutting down for the day but stayed open. They also noticed a big decrease in sales.