More than 1600 bridges are functionally obsolete.
ATLANTA – Interstate 85, one of the main arteries connecting several states to the heart of the city of Atlanta, isn’t the first bridge to catch fire and collapse. And while local and state authorities are touting months to repair this bridge, nationally, the wait time has been swift.
Over the 20 years, five bridges have collapsed or have been severely damaged due to intense heat of a fire.
In 1989 a section of I-78 in Newark, N.J., sunk several inches after a garbage truck caught fire igniting a recycling center allowed to operate under the bridge.
In 2004, a truck filled with heating oil ignited on I-95–the main thoroughfare between New York and Boston causing a 100-foot section to be demolished and rebuilt. While the work took several months to complete, crews were able to open a temporary bridge in one week.
Perhaps the most impressive bridge repairs were in Alabama and California.
In 2002, a bridge along a major interchange in Birmingham, Ala.—like Atlanta’s Spaghetti Junction—collapsed after a gasoline tanker exploded.
The 289-feet span on I-65 was removed, improved and rebuilt in 37 days—seven weeks ahead of schedule thanks to an incentive of $25,000 a day for each day it was finished ahead of schedule.
In 2004, another crash destroyed a different bridge in the same intersection. Repairs were made in less than 40 construction days, according to the Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT). It opened 28 days ahead of schedule and cost $5.5 million to repair. Crews were paid a $1.35 million bonus for early completion.
"The rapid replacement process was the result of a team effort by ALDOT, local officials, the Federal Highway Administration and our contractors," ALDOT said in a statement.
ALDOT said that has offered assistance to the Georgia Department of Transportation.
In 2007, a gasoline tanker exploded destroying two ramps in one of the most heavily traveled interchanges in the San Francisco area. In less than one month, both were repaired or rebuilt and back open. They did it by increasing the number of workers, working around the clock and scheduling jobs simultaneously. It didn’t hurt that for every day the project finished early, the state awarded the company $200,000.
While, I-85’s collapse and fire did not injure or kill anyone, the country's most notorious interstate and bridge disasters over the last century have killed more than 300 people, including 10 who died on the Sidney Lanier Bridge in Brunswick, Ga.
Point Pleasant, W.V. and Gallipolis, Ohio
Dec. 15, 1967
46 killed, 9 injured
Sidney Lanier Bridge
Nov. 7, 1972
Hyatt Regency walkway
Kansas City, Mo.
July 17, 1981
114 killed, 200 injured
Cline Avenue over the Indiana Harbor and Ship Canal
East Chicago, Ind.
April 15, 1982
14 killed, 16 injured
Mianus River Bridge
June 28, 1983
3 killed, 5 injured
Schoharie Creek Bridge / Thruway Bridge
Fort Hunter, N.Y.
April 5, 1987
10 killed, unknown injured
Tennessee Hatchie River Bridge
Between Covington, Tennessee and Henning, Tennessee
April 1, 1989
Cypress Street Viaduct
Oct. 17, 1989
San Francisco–Oakland Bay Bridge
Oct. 17, 1989
Heber Springs, Ark.
Oct. 28, 1989
Claiborne Avenue Bridge
New Orleans, La.
May 28, 1993
1 killed, 2 injured
CSXT Big Bayou Canot Rail Bridge
Sept. 22, 1993
47 killed, 103 injured
March 10, 1995
Queen Isabella Causeway
Port Isabel, Texas and South Padre Island, Texas
Sept. 15, 2001
Webbers Falls, Okla.
May 26, 2002
C-470 overpass over I-70
May 15, 2004
I-35 W Bridge over the Mississippi River
Aug. 1, 2007
13 killed, 145 injured
Hopple Street Overpass over southbound I-75
Jan. 19, 2015
Major freeway bridge collapses in Minneapolis during rush hour
The I-35 W bridge collapsed Aug. 6, 2007 in Minneapolis, Minn. The job of removing debris and destroyed cars, the cost was estimated to be $15 million. Five were confirmed dead.
I-5 Bridge collapses on Skagit River in Washington
A bridge collapsed on Interstate 5 on May 23, 2013 near Mt. Vernon, Wash., which connects Seattle to Vancouver B.C., Canada. No deaths have been reported, and three people were taken to hospitals with injuries.