This story has been updated.
WSB-TV reports that three people are “in custody” in connection with fire that knocked out a section of one of the state’s most important roads.
Atlanta will be stuck with the traffic headaches created by the collapse of a section of I-85 for months to come, transportation officials say.
According to WSB-TV, one defendant faces charges of first degree criminal damage to property and two other people have been charged with criminal trespassing. For the full story, click here.
The Georgia Department of Transportation says that about 700 feet of roadway – 350 on north I-85 and 350 on south I-85 – will need to be replaced. Demolition will start this weekend and will continue through April 3. The department is still assessing the damage. The federal government has pledged $10 million toward the repairs, GDOT said.
In this video: Georgia DOT Commissioner Russell McMurry provides a status update on the I-85 roadway collapse during March 31 press conference.
The cause of the fire hasn’t been determined. The place the fire started is on state right of way and it was used to store construction materials, equipment and supplies, GDOT said.
“The area contained materials such as plastic conduit which is a stable, non-combustible material,” a press release from GDOT said. “This kind of conduit is used for electrical or fiber optic cables. The storage site was a secured area that has been used in this manner for years. It is not an uncommon practice for Georgia DOT or other state agencies throughout the country to store their material on the right of way.”
Here is the full press release from GDOT:
Fulton County, Georgia
Seven Hundred Feet of I-85 to be Removed and Replaced: $10 Million in Federal Funds Approved from US DOT
Georgia DOT Commissioner and Local Officials Update on I-85 Roadway Collapse in Metro Atlanta After Meeting with Governor and Federal Officials.
ATLANTA – Georgia DOT Commissioner Russell R. McMurry, along with state and local officials briefed the public on developments in the ongoing efforts to repair and replace sections of the I-85 roadway near Piedmont Road. Earlier today, the Commissioner met with Governor Nathan Deal and Butch Waidelich from the Federal Highway Administration. They committed to work together, along with key partners to ensure the I-85 rebuilding process is expedited and the interstate is operational as quickly as humanly possible. Approximately 700 feet of the roadway — approximately 350 feet northbound and 350 feet southbound will be removed and replaced including support columns. Demolition will begin this weekend and will continue into Monday, April 3.
Other local and state officials at the press conference included Georgia Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mark W. McDonough, City of Atlanta Fire Chief Joel Baker, Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority (MARTA) CEO Keith Parker, and Georgia Regional Transportation Authority/ State Road and Tollway Authority Executive Director Chris Tomlinson.
After walking the site, Commissioner McMurry expressed gratitude to the first responders who kept the public safe and prevented a terrible situation from being far worse.
Since Thursday night, Georgia DOT bridge inspectors have been inspecting the site, assessing the damage and providing information to engineering and design teams. The Georgia DOT will continue the process of determining the extent of the damage in adjacent sections and surrounding infrastructure, and there may be additional repair work that is not quite as obvious. The Department’s engineers began design work for the known damaged sections last night and will continue to advance that process as additional information is available.
“I’d like to express our thanks and gratitude to the motoring public, who listened to the information we distributed overnight and changed their commute patterns this morning to take the pressure off of the metro roadways. I thank the people of Atlanta for their resilience and the exceptional efforts taken to find alternative routes, adjust schedules and use transit to help ease congestion around this site,” the Commissioner said.
McMurry also explained that the area where the fire originated is part of the state’s right of way utilized as a storage location for construction materials, equipment and supplies. The area contained materials such as plastic conduit which is a stable, non-combustible material. This kind of conduit is used for electrical or fiber optic cables. The storage site was a secured area that has been used in this manner for years. It is not an uncommon practice for Georgia DOT or other state agencies throughout the country to store their material on the right of way.
Finally, the Commissioner reiterated that the Department was still in the assessment phase, and it will take several months of construction for the roadway to be open to traffic. The Department has aggressive goals to work to reopen some adjacent roadways to traffic in the near future, and will provide updates on these openings as soon as plans are finalized.
Georgia DOT will continue to work with officials, law enforcement, transit partners and many others to provide information and alternatives for the traveling public and the larger impacted community. The Department asks that travelers plan their travel in advance, and consider options like transit, alternative routes, flex scheduling and work from home, if possible.
For Commissioner McMurry’s comments at the press conference, click here. For more information and continuous updates, visit www.dot.ga.gov, on our statewide 511 travel system and on our social media channels on Facebook and Twitter.
Editor’s note and correction: Earlier reports said the fire occurred in Midtown, and while Midtown has felt the impact, the fire technically occurred at the southern border of Buckhead.