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Posted: March 30, 2017

7 things to know about the fiery I-85 bridge collapse 

David Goldman/AP
Smoke billows from a section of an overpass that collapsed from a large fire on Interstate 85 in Atlanta, Thursday, March 30, 2017. Witnesses say troopers were telling cars to turn around on the bridge because they were concerned about its integrity. Minutes later, the bridge collapsed. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

By The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

ATLANTA —

Around 7 p.m. Thursday, crews were battling a massive fire on I-85 northbound in northeast Atlanta when a section of the highway collapsed, officials said.

Fire officials extinguished it on Thursday night after it burned for more than an hour.

Here are seven things we know so far: 

What caused the fire?

As of 8:50 p.m. Thursday, the cause is unknown. However, WSB-TV reported that because flames appeared to be coming from underneath the interstate, the PVC piping under the interstate may be on fire.

Gov. Nathan Deal said that though the cause of the fire was not yet known, “the speculation I’ve heard is that there are some PVC products that caught fire.”

Where exactly did the fire occur?

The fire was on a bridge — I-85 northbound just south of Ga. 400 near Piedmont Road, Atlanta fire spokesman Sgt. Cortez Stafford said.

»RELATED: PHOTOS: I-85 shut down by fire, heavy smoke

What are Atlanta commuters supposed to do?

According to Georgia Department of Transportation officials, both northbound and southbound directions will be closed from the I-75/Brookwood split to the North Druid Hills exit for “the foreseeable future.” 

  • Motorists traveling north on I-85 from the south side of Atlanta will be diverted to northbound I-75 at Brookwood near 17th Street.
  • Motorists traveling southbound on I-85 north of Atlanta will be diverted to northbound Ga. 400.
  • Motorists traveling southbound on Ga. 400 from north of Atlanta will be diverted at Sidney Marcus exit.
  • I-285 and I-20 are both open to traffic and are the best alternatives for motorists to use if possible.
  • From 6 a.m. to 10 a.m. Friday only transit vehicles and vehicles with three or more occupants will be allowed to use the southbound express lane on I-85.
  • Motorists are encouraged to utilize a wayfinding app to help navigate to their destinations.

According to MARTA spokesman Eric Burton, the trains have not been affected, and MARTA is increasing rail services. The transit company will also have additional staff on hand to help passengers.

If you’re on the road, the Google Map below shows the I-85 and Buford Spring Connector entrances and exits marked for closures.

Is anyone hurt?

Gov. Nathan Deal said no injuries have been reported.

Are schools and government offices open Friday?

According to WSB-TV, Atlanta Public Schools will be on normal schedule Friday, but DeKalb County Schools will be canceled.

The City of Atlanta government offices and the Municipal Court of Atlanta will start later than usual at 10 a.m. Friday. 

Emory, Georgia Tech and Georgia State universities also posted alerts on their websites late Thursday encouraging students and faculty to consider alternate arrangements with their supervisors, instructors and fellow students.

How are people reacting?

People are taking to social media to share their thoughts, many messages mixed with both shock and worry.

 

When will the bridge be repaired?

“It’s going to take some time to get it repaired and back to service,” Gov. Nathan Deal said. 

Georgia Department of Transportation inspectors were on the scene, and the construction crew that built the bridge has been contacted to look at the schematics and determine how long it will take to repair it, according to Deal.

As of 10:25 p.m. Thursday, Atlanta fire spokesman Sgt. Cortez Stafford said inspectors still can't get under the bridge due to structural concerns.

"The entire bridge is compromised," Stafford said. "Right now, it's still dangerous to go under there."

Return to AJC.com for updates.


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