U.S. transportation chief praises Georgia’s response to I-85 collapse

The federal government’s top transportation official came to Atlanta Thursday to survey the new I-85 bridge she has agreed to pay for.

U.S. Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao joined Gov. Nathan Deal and other Georgia officials at the new bridge for a belated celebration of its opening last weekend — just six weeks after the bridge collapsed.

IN-DEPTH: I-85 repaired but Atlanta traffic still going to get worse

PHOTOS: Atlanta I-85 bridge collapse progress

“Atlanta can shine today,” Chao said during the ceremony beneath the new bridge at Piedmont Road. “You have shown us a community that works.”

The bridge caught fire and collapsed March 30. A homeless man, Basil Eleby, has been charged with setting the fire, which spread to construction materials that the Georgia Department of Transportation stored under the highway.

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the safety of storing materials under highways.

Contractor C.W. Matthews worked around the clock to complete the reconstruction of the bridge. GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry announced Thursday the company will received the full $3.1 million in incentives it was offered to finish early.

Chao’s Transportation Department will pay 90 percent of the $16.6 million construction cost of the new bridge, including the incentives. Georgia also will ask the federal government to pay millions of dollars in other costs related to the bridge collapse, including additional mass transit service and traffic control.

Chao, Deal and others praised the contractor, GDOT and other agencies that contributed to the quick completion of the project. Chao called the effort “a marvel of dedication.”

Officials also praised Atlanta firefighters and police officers and state troopers for their quick work the night of the fire, which prevented deaths and injuries.

Deal thanked Chao for her quick response following the fire. Within hours her department had provided $10 million in emergency funds to get the I-85 reconstruction started.

“In less than 24 hours — in fact, the next morning — she was calling me, saying, `we want to help,’” Deal said.

Reader Comments ...

Next Up in Local

At Issue: Should school dress code change to reflect today’s fashion?
At Issue: Should school dress code change to reflect today’s fashion?

To many adults of a certain generation, dressing modestly at school should be a no-brainer. Terms like “individual style” and “fashion tend-setter” weren’t monikers along the lines of “class clown” and “most likely to succeed.” But it’s a different world now. Atlanta Public Schools is considering...
Pressure on drivers puts Medicaid passengers in peril
Pressure on drivers puts Medicaid passengers in peril

The state pays LogistiCare tens of millions of taxpayer dollars a year to make sure frail and elderly Medicaid patients get to their doctors safely and on time. The privatized system is structured so the contractor sets its own rates with subcontractors — the mom-and-pop van companies that push wheelchairs, carry stretchers, lock safety restraints...
Community Voices: ‘Angel of Hope’ brings comfort after baby’s death
Community Voices: ‘Angel of Hope’ brings comfort after baby’s death

Merry Pope of Decatur discovered the need for someone who understands to talk to – someone to share one’s grief – when a certain, not uncommon, tragedy strikes. “You don’t really realize how emotional it is until you go through it yourself,” she said of her three miscarriages. “And there are not a lot of organizations...
Sunday Conversation with Kaymon Sledge

Paradise. That’s how 10-year-old Kaymon Sledge describes the Puerto Rico that he saw during spring break. After Hurricane Maria hit the island on Sept. 20, the Conyers fifth grader just had to do something to help his paradise recover. “I just felt that people already were responding to Hurricane Harvey in Texas and Hurricane Irma in Florida...
Suspect on the run after shootout with officers 
Suspect on the run after shootout with officers 

Officers were taken to the hospital after a shootout with a man at the intersection of Athens Street and Martin Luther King Jr. Boulevard , Gainesville police said in a Facebook pose late Friday.  Police said the suspect fired at officers, who shot back. The officers were taken to the hospital. Their condition was not relased.  The suspect...
More Stories