ATLANTA — The Georgia Department of Transportation began Monday to install the concrete and steel beams that will be the foundation for the I-85 bridge.
By midnight Monday, GDOT said it expected to have 20 of the massive beams installed.
The process to get these beams ready to be installed Monday started two weeks ago.
GDOT officials said they took several steps to make sure the beams are ready to handle all the traffic in metro Atlanta.
“The contractor is pushing real hard to make sure we do as many things concurrently as we can,” director Marc Mastronardi said.
While workers have been demolishing the damaged parts of the I-85 bridge for the past two weeks, contractors were already on the next step.
They were constructing the foundation beams that will hold the bridge together.
They plan on installing more than a dozen of them Monday night.
“Each beam weighs somewhere around 80,000 pounds, so by the end of tonight, and I mean midnight, we'll likely have 20 beams set in place of the 61 needed, so this is really a reason to be excited,” Mastronardi said.
Channel 2's Tyisha Fernandes asked officials what the beams are made of and how they're sure the beams can handle all the heavy, metro Atlanta traffic.
Mastronardi said the process started with placing steel rods inside the beams.
“And that steel is put under tension. The concrete is poured and the concrete cures. They release that tension. That beam gets a little chamber in it so it can eventually take those loads and it'll push it back down,” Mastronardi said.
Mastronardi said engineers tested the beams before they were approved to be installed.
He said the new bridge will be made exactly like the old one and he still predicts the bridge will be done in two months at the latest.
“Have no reason to think we won't be done by June 15,” Mastronardi said.
That came as good news to commuters who have been dealing with the extra congestion because of the collapse.
"It's still better than six months, but like I said, sooner than that would be ideal," driver Melissa Wiley said.
Most drivers told Channel 2's Carl Willis they are adjusting to their new normal, but can't wait for the bridge to reopen.
"Honestly, it's been kind of hectic," Wiley said. "My commute went from a 15-minute drive to close to an hour."
GDOT said there's a good chance all of the foundation beams will be set by next week.
"I think it's the city's top priority. We prioritize stadium building and luxury residences. This is how the money gets made to pay for those residences," driver Kaze Bridges told Willis.
Mastronardi said once the beams are in, they'll need to do surveys and some engineering to make sure the road profile is just right.
GDOT said to expect work to slow down a bit during that process.
On Monday, Interstate 20 westbound was shut down for hours as crews figured out the cause of a massive road buckling.
Viewers sent photos of a large, cracked bump in the HOV lane between the Flat Shoals Road exit and Gresham Road overpass.
Several westbound lanes of the interstate remain blocked as crews work to rebuild the road.
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