GDOT implements new policies in light of bridge collapse investigation

GDOT implements new policies in light of bridge collapse investigation

ATLANTA — Channel 2 Action News has obtained a copy of the new storage policy in place, weeks after a federal investigation into the Interstate 85 bridge collapse placed partial blame on the Georgia Department of Transportation.

The Outdoor Storage Policy for Flammable and Combustible Material was released to the agency in late April. On Monday, a GDOT spokeswoman told Channel 2 Investigative Reporter Nicole Carr the plan was formalized as policy, and included input from the State Fire Marshal's Office.

While GDOT committed to removing combustible material from beneath bridges before the investigative findings were released, this policy goes a step further in identifying regulations for permanent storage sites.

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Security measures include six foot fencing, a mandatory alert system to local fire departments describing exactly what will be stored and where, and guidelines for how stored material can be stacked against other materials and vegetation.

“I mean I think it’s smart,” said Jeneveri Curtis, a business owner along Piedmont Road, whose salon is located directly across from the bridge collapse site. “I think those types of things should be regulated because if it was regulated, maybe the collapse wouldn’t have happened.”

Last month, an NTSB report made note of Basil Eleby, a homeless man charged with setting the fire that spread to combustible material stored beneath the bridge.

Eleby’s charges were eventually dismissed pending the successful completion of a drug rehabilitation program, but the investigation highlighted GDOT’s failure to assess the risk of the combustible material.

“It was like a domino effect, you know,” said Dior Golden, a customer of a nearby business. “The bridge went down and the city just went in chaos.”

Golden said he was glad to learn of the agency’s new policy.

"I guess we are in a time now where people have to take accountability for the things that they’re doing wrong, so this is just one step in that direction,” he said.

A discussion on relocating HERO units is ongoing, but no decision has been made on where to send them.

The incident response units, which deal with highway accidents and debris, are also stored under a portion of the bridge along Plasters Avenue NE. The state fire marshal determined the facility met safety standards, but GDOT confirmed its intent to look for an alternate storage facility last month.