State offers $3.1 million incentive to finish I-85 bridge early


The contractor rebuilding the I-85 bridge in Atlanta could earn up to $3.1 million extra for finishing the project early.

Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry Wednesday announced contractor C.W. Matthews can earn an extra $1.5 million for completing the project by May 25 — three weeks earlier than the target June 15 completion date. The contractor could earn a $2 million bonus for completing it by May 21 and an extra $200,000 for each day before that, up to a total of $3.1 million.

EXCLUSIVE: Who’s to blame for Atlanta bridge collapse?

TRAFFIC: How to cope with your commute

McMurry said everything would have to go right — including the weather — for the contractor to earn the full incentive. But he said the incentive package shows the state is “very serious about getting this road back open so people can get on with their lives.”

The incentives also show the urgency of restoring one of the major highways into the heart of the city.

Some 250,000 vehicles a day used that stretch of I-85 before a March 30 fire caused a section of the northbound lanes to collapse. Inspectors later determined 350 feet of lanes in each direction must be replaced. C.W. Matthews finished demolition of the old structure last week, and work on a replacement is under way.

GUIDE: What you need to know about MARTA parking

RELATED: Who is Basil Eleby, alleged bridge burner?

McMurry toured the site of the bridge collapse Wednesday with Sen. David Perdue. The commissioner said the total cost of rebuilding the bridge remains “dynamic,” and offered no price tag. But the federal government — which provided $10 million in initial funding — is expected to pay most of the cost.

On Wednesday, McMurry called the June 15 deadline “very aggressive.” But C.W. Matthews now has a big incentive to get it done as quickly as possible.

Atorod Azizinamini, chairman of the civil and environmental engineering department at Florida International University, is an expert in accelerated bridge construction. He said the June 15 timetable for I-85 is realistic. And he said GDOT’s incentives for earlier completion are not unusually large — especially when compared to the economic costs of closing the highway.

“The cost to the society is significant compared to the cost of the incentive,” Azizinamini said.

Other projects across the country have been completed in a matter of weeks. In Alabama, for example, a 413-foot overpass on I-20 reopened 45 days after a tanker truck fire destroyed an overpass in 2004. The state paid the contractor a $1.35 million bonus — $50,000 for each day the contractor beat the deadline.

In San Francisco, a similar tanker fire destroyed a major highway interchange overpass in 2007. The contractor there collected a $5 million bonus after beating the state’s 50-day deadline.

Already C.W. Matthews — working 24 hours a day, seven days a week — has restored 13 columns left over from the original I-85 bridge in Atlanta. Next Monday some of the beams needed to support the highway deck will begin arriving.

Though workers are moving fast, McMurry said quality and safety are the first priority. He said inspectors are on site round the clock to ensure the work is done well.

Azizinamini said accelerated bridge construction is safe.

“You have to be careful,” he said. “You’ve got to pay attention to the details.”

Perdue pledged to ensure there are no federal obstacles to finishing the work as quickly as possible. He also praised local emergency personnel who quickly closed the highway and cleared the area as the fire consumed it. There were no deaths in the bridge collapse.

“This was a tragedy,” Perdue said after touring the site. “But it could have been a lot worse.”

Basil Eleby, 39, has been charged with setting the fire. But others say GDOT itself bears some of the blame for the fire, which was fed by construction material the agency had stored under the bridge for years.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Officials mull removing part of Chattahoochee bridge after drownings
Officials mull removing part of Chattahoochee bridge after drownings

People jumping off a 101-year-old bridge into the Chattahoochee River has been an issue for years. But after two recent drownings, National Park Service officials are considering new safety measures. Joshua Elias Katikla, 20, died Aug. 16 after jumping off the bridge with two friends. Perez G. Tamfu, 17 and a rising senior at Mountain View...
2 free pet adoption deals in Fulton (one expires with the eclipse)
2 free pet adoption deals in Fulton (one expires with the eclipse)

Two organizations in metro Atlanta are giving away animals over the next few days.  The Atlanta Humane Society is waiving the adoption fees of all cats and dogs who are one year or older Friday through Monday at 2:36 p.m., when the solar eclipse occurs in Atlanta.  The "Total Eclipse of Your Heart" program aims to unite hundreds...
Man convicted of torturing, raping woman for 9 hours  
Man convicted of torturing, raping woman for 9 hours  

An Ellenwood man was convicted of holding a woman hostage, torturing her and then raping her for nine hours at a Henry County home, officials said.  Michael Hamilton, 56, was convicted of rape, aggravated sodomy, terroristic threats, false imprisonment and simple battery by a jury Thursday, Henry County District Attorney spokeswoman Megan...
DeKalb County: Major sewage spill reported in Brookhaven
DeKalb County: Major sewage spill reported in Brookhaven

A broken pipe created a major sewage spill in Brookhaven this week that polluted public waterways, according to DeKalb County’s government. County officials warned residents Friday to stay away from the waterway until further notice. The spill occurred near Nancy Creek and Mill Creek Road. The county reported the spill Thursday to the...
The last time the KKK tried to burn a cross on Stone Mountain...
The last time the KKK tried to burn a cross on Stone Mountain...

This week, the Sacred Knights of the Ku Klux Klan was denied a permit request to burn a cross atop Stone Mountain. The event was to commemorate the KKK’s 1915 revival in the same spot. Despite the landmark’s history, the October ceremony would have been very unusual.  The late James R. Venable, a KKK imperial...
More Stories