The I-85 bridge over Piedmont Road in Atlanta that collapsed because of a fire Thursday evening scored strong marks on its last inspection in 2015, leading some parties to investigate the bridge’s history.
The collapse of the overpass, which Gov. Nathan Deal’s office says didn’t injure or kill anyone, comes after a report two years ago that gave the bridge relatively high marks for structural safety. The report variously rated the bridge’s condition from “good” to “very good,” depending on the components of the bridge, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The bridge received an overall sufficiency rating of 94.6 out of 100.
Investigators are looking into the bridge’s history and the cause of the fire.
Both the north and south interstate roads will need replacing, according to an initial evaluation by the Georgia Department of Transportation. Some adjacent sections received damage and might need also repair or replacement. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and GDOT are conducting investigations into the bridge’s history and its evaluation process. In the meantime, I-85 is closed indefinitely, according to Atlanta NBC-affiliate 11Alive.
The fire broke out around 7 p.m. in a location that is “part of the state’s right of way that was utilized as a storage location for construction materials, equipment and supplies,” according to a statement released by GDOT. The area housed PVC products among other things, which are stable and non-combustible, raising questions about the blaze’s origin.
Smoke from the fire stretched north, tinging the air with an acrid, black fog. Businesses in the surrounding area were closed and may not return to operation for several days. It’s unknown when the bridge will be opened again.
The fire massively disrupted traffic and commuting this morning. DeKalb County schools are canceled, and non-essential government personnel aren’t required to report to work today.
Commuters are urged to find alternative means of travel, and many businesses are offering telecommuting opportunities. The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority announced they’ll increase rail service to help travelers reach their destination in the interim. Additional support from MARTA is also on hand to help passengers find a suitable route, according to their website.
Who Keeps Bridges Safe?
Bridges are generally maintained by the Department of Transportation organization in your state, but responsibility for a bridge’s failure can fall to a number of organizations based on their negligence.
Liable parties can include the state, the bridge designer or builder — often a contractor, — or maintenance and inspection companies. Determining the bridge’s original design and ensuring its correct construction are critical to your case. Multiple parties could even face liability claims.
Investigators are still determining the cause of the I-85 fire, but for now, traffic is diverted from the area.
“This is as serious a transportation crisis as we could have,” said Atlanta’s mayor, Kasim Reed. “The governor has been leading and we have been acting on it.”
(Editor’s Note: This is a news story from the ‘Morgan Monitor,’ a news wire offering legal perspectives on news in your community.)