After I-85 Collapse, GDOT Scrambles For Commuter Options

A section of a bridge on Interstate 85 collapsed after a massive fire Thursday evening.
A section of a bridge on Interstate 85 collapsed after a massive fire Thursday evening.
Credit Al Such / WABE
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With Interstate 85 shut down between Interstate 75 and GA 400, the Georgia Department of Transportation and other transit agencies were scrambling Thursday night for options for commuters in a city already often laden with traffic. 

The interstate, which carries 250,000 cars per day, is a major thoroughfare for traffic heading north and south through Atlanta. Possible alternatives for drivers could include utilizing the Xpress Bus Service and Peach Pass express lanes.

“We will have to continue to evaluate the situation and adjust as we do,” Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry told the Associated Press. “This incident — make no bones about it — will have a tremendous impact on travel.”

Alternate routes include taking I-75 to I-285 or I-20 to I-285, but officials acknowledged that those wouldn’t be satisfactory outlets for the bulk of daily traffic I-85 sees.

“Two-eighty-five is going to be slammed; 75 is going to be slammed, and it’s going to be a lot of pressure on the system,” said Mark McDonough, commissioner of the Georgia State Patrol’s Department of Public Safety. “Plan ahead; be patient.” 

MARTA said its trains will run more frequently to accommodate the expected influx of passengers, while some Georgia Regional Transportation Authority express buses will be rerouted.

State government agencies in Metro Atlanta will delay opening until 10 a.m. Friday. And Gov. Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency for Fulton County after the massive fire that caused the collapse.

“The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety and minimize disruption of traffic as we continue emergency response efforts,” Deal said.

GDOT said it’s too early to know how long it will take to rebuild the overpass, but they are assessing the damage.

“It’s going to take a while for everybody to adjust to this – what is the new normal?” McDonough asked. “We’re going to find out over the next couple of weeks.”

For more information on how your commute could be affected, go to www.dot.ga.gov.

WABE reporter Al Such and The Associated Press contributed to this report.