Price tag for new I-85 bridge: Up to $16.6 million

Rebuilding a collapsed section of I-85 in Atlanta will cost taxpayers up to $16.6 million, state officials said Tuesday.

And though the Georgia Department of Transportation officials have not announced a new timetable for completing the project, they say construction is going so it’s likely be done before the official June 15 completion date.

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“June 15 is the latest this bridge gets completed,” GDOT construction director Marc Mastronardi said at a press conference.

Tuesday’s announcements provided more clarity to a project that has beguiled metro Atlanta commuters since one of their main highways into the city went up in flames March 30.

Basil Eleby, a homeless man, has been accused of setting the fire that caused the northbound lanes near Piedmont Road to collapse and irreparably damaged the southbound lanes. Others say GDOT itself — which stored construction material under the roadway that fueled the blaze — is also responsible for the highway’s closure.

Mastronardi said the $16.6 million is the maximum the bridge will cost. He said construction of the new bridge will cost about $11.9 million, while demolition of the old one cost $1.6 million. The estimate also includes incentives of up to $3.1 million for contractor C.W. Matthews to complete the work before June 15.

The U.S. Department of Transportation has already provided $10 million toward the cost of the project. Mastronardi said the federal government ultimately will cover 90 percent of the cost of the bridge.

Since the fire, contractor C.W. Matthews has worked round-the-clock to demolish and rebuild 350 feet of highway in each direction. For the contractor to get the full incentive, the work would have to be done by May 15.

Mastronardi said it’s hard to say how far in advance of June 15 the work is likely to be done.

“In terms of progress, we couldn’t be happier,” he said.

By the end of Tuesday, the contractor was expected to place all 61 beams required to support the new bridge deck. It also was prepared to set deck spans for five of the six bridge spans and install reinforced steel ties on two of the six deck spans.

Mastronardi said he expected the company to begin pouring the deck for the first of the six spans Wednesday night.

Meanwhile, work has begun on repaving a 6.6-mile stretch of I-85 from I-75 to Clairmont Road. That $22.9 million project won’t be finished until next February. But Mastronardi said some of the most intensive work will be done while that stretch of I-85 is closed for the bridge construction.

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