Staffers with Gov. Nathan Deal's office confirmed early Friday afternoon that federal funds would be coming to Georgia to help pay for reconstruction of the Interstate 85 bridge damaged by Thursday's fire and collapse.
Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao has confirmed to Gov. Deal and other state and local officials that $10 million in federal funds have been released to help pay for the repair and reconstruction of I-85 damaged by the collapse.
Friday morning, Gov. Deal received an update from GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry, Federal Highway Administration acting deputy director Butch Waidelich, Department of Public Safety Commissioner Mark McDonough and other officials to receive a full briefing on the collapse.
"The fact that no lives were lost is a blessing, and I'm grateful for the courage, hard work and tireless efforts by our state and local first responders. I'm also thankful for the timely response from the federal government. Their expedited assistance will allow GDOT, city officials and private contractors to begin work immediately. The state of Georgia, the City of Atlanta and federal government are committed to an expedited and safe resolution of this disaster," Deal said in a statement. "Despite our coordinated efforts, this will be a long process. This is due, in part, to the fact that bridge beams must be cast, poured, tested, transported and individually installed. During this time, public safety is our chief priority and primary concern. With your help, we will be better able to ensure the safety of motorists, travelers, first responders and construction crews.”
McMurry told reporters three sections of northbound roadway, as well as three sections of corresponding southbound roadway -- including the bridge sections over Piedmont Road -- will have to be replaced. Demolition of the bridge sections, he said, will run at least into Monday.
A full repair and replacement of the bridge sections will take at least several months, but at this point, McMurry says engineers have no idea as to fully how long it will take.
McMurry reiterated that while GDOT had no idea as to how the fire started, the piping that was stored under the bridge deck was a type of PVC pipe that was used in road construction work. He said the area was a part of the right-of-way owned by the Department of Transportation and used for equipment storage. He said the material was non-combustible, and said he was just as eager as everyone else to find out the cause of the fire.
McMurry said the material had been stored there for years.
"The conduit is used in the traffic management cabling, fiber optic and wire network," McMurry said.
He specifically identified the conduit as HDPE.
"It is a high-density plastic pipe," he said.
A number of plastics companies list the material as flammable.
MARTA chairman Keith Parker said he had noted a significant increase in ridership on MARTA, along with a corresponding increase in Breeze Card sales.
The Georgia State Patrol emphasized that with the necessity of construction, northbound traffic on I-85 will be blocked at the Brookwood interchange, and motorists directed northward on I-75. Southbound traffic on I-85 will be turned back at Georgia 400, and likewise, Georgia 400 traffic is being blocked at I-85 northbound.
They pointed out that this is the "new normal," given our overall construction situation and that we will face this while the reconstruction of I-85 is with us.
The fire began off of Piedmont Avenue below I-85 shortly, after 6 pm Thursday, before quickly spreading to engulf the area underneath the freeway. The structure of the southbound lanes collapsed a short time later.
PHOTOS | I-85 collapse as the smoke clears
PHOTOS | Under the bridge aftermath