I-85 Bridge Collapse in Atlanta

On March 30, 2017 a large fire, apparently set, (though arson charges were dropped) under a section of I-85 in Atlanta resulted in the collapse of part of one of the major freeways through Atlanta. 7 things we know now about the I-85 bridge collapse. (There is a nice – short – video at the link. More videos will play if you don’t stop them.)

If you’ve ever driven through Atlanta, well you know; traffic is bad. And if you haven’t driven through Atlanta, you probably can’t appreciate how bad traffic can be when everything is fine. After this fire, everything was not fine.

A large amount of plastic was stored under the bridge. It was ignited, and the fire damaged the steel in the bridge.

When The Atlanta Journal-Constitution’s reporters investigated what exactly happened under the bridge and why the materials were stored there, the newspaper found security at the site was lacking and determined that officials don’t really know what’s stored under other bridges around the state.

Not what you would call “good management.”

After a massive rebuilding effort the bridge opened in May of 2017. Restoring what passes for normal in the Atlanta commuting environment. That is a pretty Herculean effort by the standards of today. I am sure it helped that it was a completely ordinary highway bridge.

According to police, the flames ignited in a state-owned storage area under I-85 northbound just south of Ga. 400.

Stored there were high-density polyethylene pipes, which are commonly used in the transportation industry for cabling and fiber optic wire networks.

This isn’t a marquee bridge, like The Tacoma Narrows Bridge or The Silver Bridge, that collapsed in a dramatic fashion and killed lots of people. It is a low-key bridge of the kind that millions of people drive over every week. And it is a reminder that even the small bridges, when they fall, can make life miserable for a lot of people. It isn’t just the marquee bridges that need inspection, maintenance and repair. And talk about not managing infrastructure, if you can’t say, what is stored where, and it turns out that what is stored can bring down that infrastructure, then I think there is a problem. If you don’t know what you have stored where, how do you know what you need to order? Maybe you just keep ordering more stuff, after all, it isn’t your money being wasted. I don’t think it would be much different in any other state, aside from Georgia, and I don’t expect the situation has gotten much better.

Not managing infrastructure is not the way to ensure that infrastructure lasts. But not managing anything seems to be the way of government.

One thought on “I-85 Bridge Collapse in Atlanta

  1. The bridge rebuild was a great example of cutting red tape and allowing the contractors to get it done with a big bonus clause.
    It wasn’t cheap, but it wasn’t much more expensive than it would have been if the normal rules had applied and the thing had taken 4 months.

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