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GDOT places massive rocks under bridges along Downtown Connector to deter homeless camps

They said it is a safety hazard, particularly when the temperatures drop and fires are set.

ATLANTA — If you drive along the Downtown Connector, you will oftentimes see homeless camps under the bridges and overpasses. 

The Georgia Department of Transportation is doing something to deter them from setting up camps in state right-of-way, they said. 

You will now notice that instead of tents, there are giant boulders and rocks under the bridges. 

"We are placing the rock to reduce resettlement in the highest-risk areas of our right of way," they said in a statement to 11Alive. 

They said camping under the bridges is against Georgia law and can present a safety hazard. 

"With the onset of colder weather, the likelihood of fires being set is increasing, which only compounds the risks to humans and infrastructure," the statement said. 

One area where the boulders are is under Interstate 20 near Pryor Street. 

In 2017, a massive fire under I-85 allegedly set by a man who was homeless caused the entire roadway to collapse -- causing massive detours around the city while crews worked to rebuild the highway. 

During a week span in January of this year, three fires were reported under bridges, two were connected to homeless encampments, officials said. 

On Jan. 23, a fire broke out under the highway near the Buford-Spring connector, very close to the 2017 fire. The week prior, there was a small fire under a bridge in that same area, which appeared to be set by a homeless encampment. And then days prior to that, two people who were homeless got into a fight and set one of their belongings on fire at Lindbergh and I-85. 

In January 2019, two years after the I-85 bridge collapse, a fire in the same area gave motorists a disturbing reminder of that infamous event. Just after midnight, crews were battling flames under the bridge. 11Alive's cameras captured the high flames. 

GDOT said they have been working with the City of Atlanta and its outreach partners, "who can provide necessary resources to safely and humanely offer housing options as they become available."

Since last year, the Gateway Homeless Center said there's been an increase in homelessness of almost 30 percent in Atlanta. 

An organization, just last month, said they hope to have 800 unsheltered homeless off the downtown Atlanta streets and in housing by December, and an added 1,200 Atlanta homeless in apartments by the end of next year.

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