ATLANTA -- Progress continues to march right along in the efforts to repair the gaping hole left on both sides of I-85, which collapsed last week in the wake of a massive fire.
Officials from the Georgia Department of Transportation held a news conference from the site of construction, Friday, who said they were pleased with the speed of the project and felt confident that they would meet their June 15 deadline.
"We did not expect this kind of progress," said Mark Mastronardi, GDOT's director of construction. "This is very fast."
PHOTOS | 85 bridge reconstruction
Mastronardi said that all of the heavy demolition of the bridge is now complete, opening the door for actual construction. The director called it "a milestone."
Construction crews casting steel forms were the backdrop for Friday's news conference. Mastronardi called those actions a sign of "the beginning of things to come."
GDOT: "we did not expect this kind of progress. This is happening very fast." pic.twitter.com/BjluYugz1b— Ryan Kruger (@Ryan11Alive) April 7, 2017
"We are now working to reinforce the columns that they saved, which will become the substructure for the reconstructed bridge," he said.
Mastronardi said enhancing the base of the bridge that they were able to save is a "structurally and absolutely sound solution" to construction. He said it's a technique that GDOT has used before in repairing other bridges that have suffered damage.
"We're very proud of our bridge engineers for doing this," Mastronardi said. "To be able to salvage this work is what allows us to have confidence in accelerating the completion of this project."
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Once all of the steel forms for the columns -- which range in diameter from 4.5 to 5 feet in diameter -- are complete, crews will begin pouring the concrete at the construction site. They anticipate that to start around 8 p.m. Friday.
In addition, Mastronardi said eight beams have already been cast off-site, and crews could see more beams arriving to the construction site by April 15. With some of the beams in place, he said GDOT expects they could see the caps, the horizontal pieces of the bridge, begin to get poured. Even with Wednesday's severe weather, Mastronardi said crews were still able to keep the project on schedule.
"We're very excited about the process," Mastronardi said. "From a Georgia Department of Transportation perspective, as a citizen and you all as road users, this is a tremendous positive sign for where we're headed."