breaking news

Amid frigid temps, Gov. Deal issues emergency declaration

Road to Recovery: Rebuilding I-85 bridge a complex process


Rebuilding a bridge isn’t as simple as snapping together pieces like an oversized Lego set. Building one fast is even more complicated.

Georgia Department of Transportation engineers began designing fixes for 700-feet of the I-85 bridge the night a fire caused a portion of it to collapse and badly damaged other sections.

IN-DEPTH: Is MARTA ready for its close-up after bridge collapse?

EXCLUSIVE: Who’s to blame for the I-85 collapse?

Marietta contractor C.W. Matthews Co., which will be paid up to $16.5 million to complete the project, started putting together cost estimates that same night. The bridge went up in flames on March 30 after a homeless man allegedly set fire to an upholstered chair, which then ignited several tons of coiled plastic conduit that had been stored underneath.

An indication of how quickly both shops were working: amounts for each of the 92 line items that make up the budget are written by hand. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution and Channel 2 Action News obtained the contract this week through a Georgia Open Records Act request.

“That’s unique; we hadn’t done that in a long time,” C.W. Matthews President Dan Garcia said of the hand-written budget amounts. “Everything happened so quickly, we ended up doing it the old-fashioned way.”

The company’s bid for fixing the bridge was reduced to $11.9 million after a couple hours of negotiations with the state and Federal Highway Administration, Garcia said. That amount doesn’t include $1.6 million for demolition, or $3.1 million in incentives the company can earn by completing the project early.

The budgeted line items include $3 million for concrete beams; $2.4 million for grading; $1.7 million for fast-curing superstructure concrete; and $1.5 million for traffic control, which includes barricades, signs, fencing and police officers. The federal government is expected to pick up most of the cost of construction.

Major considerations in designing the repairs included the geology of the ground beneath the bridge; the weight of the bridge and vehicles expected to use it; how quickly the concrete cured to specifications needed for a highway bridge; and, perhaps most importantly, how fast the concrete beams could be manufactured.

They even took into account the number of axles on tractor trailers — which distribute the weight of the trucks’ load as they cross the bridge.

“Bridges, by their very nature, are quite complex to design,” said GDOT Construction Director Marc Mastronardi. “The art in it becomes understanding how to take all that information and how to synthesize it.”

The concrete on the columns supporting the bridge cured in 24 hours. The decking is a 72-hour mix. Normally, concrete decking takes 14-days to dry, said Garcia, whose company completed pouring the first of six decks on Wednesday.

COMMUTING: MARTA adds parking spaces

RELATED: Will Trump budget scuttle Atlanta transit projects?

“There are costs associated with expediting a project like this,” Garcia said. “You use different chemicals and additives to achieve strength in concrete faster. They are about 35 to 40 percent more expensive in a 24-hour mix.

“The beam supplier was critical for us to be able to complete the work more quickly. Standard Concrete (Products) produced all the beams right here in Atlanta, except the ones over Piedmont Road. They began casting the first beams on Monday after the fire.”

Dozens of C.W. Matthews’ employees have worked 24 hours a day to demolish the old bridge and build the new one. Last week, the company had 45 people working at night and 40 during the day. GDOT has four to six inspectors working beside them at all times.

“Our role is the quality assurance piece,” Mastronardi said. “We have staff that are subject-matter experts in bridge construction.”

A stroke of luck that made design and construction easier: The foundation and 13 columns supporting the old bridge were still usable. Mastronardi said that probably saved a month of construction time.

The first step in building the new bridge was shoring up those original columns with more steel and concrete. Next, workers placed reinforced concrete caps over the columns to support 61 concrete beams — each one weighing about 80,000 pounds.

The beams themselves were laid on the caps and tied together for stability. Metal forms are placed to hold the concrete of the bridge deck.

After the decks are poured, they will be tested for smoothness and ground down if necessary. Then they’ll be grooved to prevent them from becoming slick when it rains. Finally, they’ll be striped, and workers will pour the concrete barrier walls on each side of the bridge deck.

GDOT officials said they believe construction will likely be done ahead of schedule before the June 15 deadline.

“Those (barriers) will be a sure sign we’re in the home stretch,” Mastronardi said.



Reader Comments ...


Next Up in Local

Fulton County government closed Wednesday for inclement weather
Fulton County government closed Wednesday for inclement weather

All Fulton County government offices will be closed Wednesday, due to the potential for ice and snow. All courts in the Atlanta Judicial Circuit will also be closed, and jurors should not report. For updated information about closings, see www.fultoncountyga.gov or @FultonInfo on Facebook and Twitter.
Georgia man who set ex-girlfriend on fire sentenced to life in prison
Georgia man who set ex-girlfriend on fire sentenced to life in prison

A Georgia man who poured gasoline on his ex-girlfriend and set her on fire was sentenced to life in prison with the possibility for parole, according to the Clayton County District Attorney’s office.  Mervin Woodard, 40, was found guilty of multiple felonies in the 2016 crime, which left Melita Curtis in a coma for two weeks. Curtis was...
Who is White House physician Ronny L. Jackson?
Who is White House physician Ronny L. Jackson?

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson became physician to the president in 2013, when he was appointed by President Barack Obama. It’s a position that has been around since George Washington became president, but it did not become official until Congress created the title in 1928.  Jackson is the 18th person to hold the position, which is...
White House physician releases official report with details of president’s exam
White House physician releases official report with details of president’s exam

U.S. Navy Rear Adm. Ronny L. Jackson, the physician to the president, released the particulars of President Donald Trump’s physical exam in an official report Tuesday. It was Trump’s first periodical physical as president and was conducted last Friday at the Walter Reed Army National Military Medical Center. The results were released with...
Atlanta gets third round of winter, snow and freezing temperatures
Atlanta gets third round of winter, snow and freezing temperatures

Long before the first drop or snowflake fell, metro Atlanta was going through the familiar motions: Road crews were treating roads, schools cancelled evening activities and commuters rushed to get off the road early. Then, it was time to wait. By Tuesday’s evening rush hour, what was expected to be Georgia’s third wintry storm since December...
More Stories