I-85. What to Say?

We all know what happened last night and that’s partly what has made writing this post so difficult.

The other difficulty is how utterly unimaginable it should be that one of the most important cities in the world’s richest, most powerful nation has a key element of its infrastructure collapse. Regrettably, America’s infrastructure is in horrible condition and failing (SAD!). In 2014, the American Society of Civil Engineers graded Georgia’s infrastructure a C and our bridges a C-. The 2017 grade hasn’t been announced and I am emailing the ASCE for a comment on last night’s event.

Related to the above: if we had a robust, well-planned mass transit system, that would greatly alleviate the transportation woes that are going to ail Atlantans at least through the summer.

We don’t know yet if this was just a horrible accident or a symptom of something far worse. And candidly I don’t think there’s any one solution. Hopefully this catalyzes policy makers in the state and country to look at our roads and highways and do all that can be done to prevent another collapse, even if it means a big bill for taxpayers.

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Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

It will of course have a damaging effect on the Atlanta core’s economic activity. May even measurable at the state level.

As a Peachtree Gateway resident (DeKalb County north of I-85), my household dines nearly once a week in Midtown. That activity will be moving to Buford Hwy and other places for the summer.

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Spring-Buford Highway connector is restricted to HOV use most if not all of the time while reconstruction is underway.

gcp
gcp

Current information is that the fire underneath the bridge weakened the structure and it collapsed. No evidence so far of a structural failure.

If we had a massive infrastructure problem in this state we would routinely see structures collapse. In reality, such incidents are rare.

Matt
Matt

“If we had a massive infrastructure problem in this state we would routinely see structures collapse. In reality, such incidents are rare.”

You know, there is a middle ground between “no problem” and “massive problem,” right? Saying we don’t have an infrastructure problem is either a symptom of blindness or ignorance.

There’s no problem. Only SOME of our bridges and highways fail.

Charlie
Charlie

Exactly. I had this same argument with William Perry on FB in the early am hours who decided to grind his familiar ax that if Atlanta hadn’t spent its tax dollars on a new stadium we would have better infrastructure. Unless there’s a plan to rebuild the first few miles of I-85 North of the connector with a solid (non-bridge) structure that went unfunded because of the stadium, it’s hard to connect how spending Atlanta’s hotel motel money on different infrastructure would have changed this at all. One of the most frustrating parts of making public policy is watching everyone… Read more »

Will Durant
Will Durant

This was not a structural issue. It was a strategic one with whoever decided years ago that using an essential portion of the infrastructure for a convenient roof was a good idea. At least the homeless they ran out of there couldn’t have ever damaged it quite as bad.

gcp
gcp

Yes, there is a “middle ground” which is why I said we don’t have a “massive” problem. One of the reasons we passed HB170 in 2015 was to repair/replace older bridges and highways and as a result DOT is already addressing the issue.

Andrew C. Pope
Andrew C. Pope

Thankfully there was no loss of life. I still remember the I-35W collapse in Minneapolis.

CalmlyBallistic
CalmlyBallistic

“if we had a robust, well-planned mass transit system,” – well, it’s not like the people living there have been repeatedly asked to join such a network and refused every single time. /S

Gregs
Gregs

If nothing else, can we agree that its not a good idea to store PVC or anything else that can burn underneath an expressway? This is the low hanging fruit that should be addressed yesterday!

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

My guess is that it will be determined to have been caused by more than one failure. Systems/processes today are such that that is usually the case in event of catastrophe.

davidmac
davidmac

I know the media has reported this as “PVC” tube. There are plastics that are not PVC that are also used for conduit when buried underground, notably polyethylene (PE). PVC does not burn well and self-extinguishes. PE burns quite well.

I would not be at all surprised to learn that these were spools of PE conduit for underground raceways for future telecom or electrical lines.

Gregs
Gregs

Whatever it is determined to be, we should be able to agree that it isn’t a good idea to store anything that can burn under a bridge, overpass or elevated expressway. Just like I don’t store piles of wood in my house because I know the risks associated with fire and/or termites.

Lea Thrace
Lea Thrace

if I remember correctly, there are regs that determine storage (even temporary) under and around infrastructure like bridges. But applicability depends on the jurisdiction. Im not sure whether state or federal comes into play here.

Lea Thrace
Lea Thrace

PE makes more sense than improperly treated PVC which is what i thought (PVC is very flammable but is treated with retardants in processing).

davidmac
davidmac

Lea, PVC is not very flammable. Its limiting oxygen index is in the 40s. Perhaps you are thinking of a different vinyl, such as PVAc?

Dave Bearse
Dave Bearse

The most hurt after the Atlanta core will be Gwinnett County. This will further push the transit planning effort currently underway there, and in my opinion 20 years late to produce the most bang for now half billion or more bucks required to bring transit and TOD to the County.

George Chidi
George Chidi

This kind of event is rare, because storing highly flammable chemicals where they can ignite near concrete supports for a highway is … well, unbelievably stupid. Any of the supports that reached a temperature high enough to soften steel are structurally unsound now, even if they didn’t give. The construction process uses a kind of steel stretching and compression to give strength to the concrete. If the steel decompresses, the concrete cracks and the game is over. I took a guess at what this might cost the state’s economy last night. I can run the numbers four different ways and… Read more »

augusta52
augusta52

Some background: The “original” I-85 in that area was built two generations ago (today’s Buford-Spring connector), roughly between 1952 and 1955, two lanes each way (then-Mayor Hartsfield never foresaw the day where we would need 5 or even 6 lanes each way, but of course back then the Atlanta area was much, much smaller than today). By the early 1980s, traffic was well beyond the capacity of the 1950-s version, so DOT as part of their “Free The Freeways” program built a new 85 just to the north of 85 in that area (the elevated portion perhaps due to the… Read more »

Ellynn
Ellynn

The distance from the road below to the substructure does not look very high, with other road structures to either side. It basically created a kiln effect, superheating the concrete. That fire was very hot, and extended well over an hour at a high level of burn. The bridge collapsed at the point where pre-tension reinforced pre-cast structural members attached to the beams. You have enough high temperature heat, metal cables lose their tension (while the concrete is also being baked and losing its binding properties) and starts to shift in the structure. The ends where the cables and other… Read more »

The Eiger
The Eiger

Anyone else think George Bush planned all of this so that we can go to war in the Middle East? I do. Everyone knows that concrete doesn’t burn. It’s impossible. I bet George Bush had the CIA plant charges on that bridge so it would collapse. The fire was just a distraction.

Lea Thrace
Lea Thrace

you jest. but i have already seen a similar post attributing this to a plot by Pres. Obama’s shadow government to somehow embarrass Trump.

*sigh* these are people that vote alongside you and I…

The Eiger
The Eiger

I love the people that tell me all the time “I heard it on the internet. It has to be true.”

gcp
gcp

I blame this one on the Russians. Putin, no doubt.

Ellynn
Ellynn

I didn’t say concrete burned. “Concrete and steel are non-combustibles, but they are not fireproof.” Steel and concrete have a point in which they lose structural stability in a fire. Concrete’s is extremely high but is has one. It can also become brittle if hit with cold water if super hot, reducing that time of stablity. The industry test for the effect of water on a hot object is called a hose steam test. The rate in which it loses stability is measured in hours under a controlled test method through ASTM, ANSI, NFPA, UL or others bending of the… Read more »

The Eiger
The Eiger

I was joking.

Ellynn
Ellynn

Oh.

This is sort of in my wheel house of what my day job involves…

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

So, the fact that it rained could have possibly made it worse?

Ellynn
Ellynn

From what I saw of the pictures taken this morning, not likely. The fire was directed to the underside of the structure. The road level pours would take any rain and was most likely not as hot to cause structural issues. The damage would be more cosmetic. A 1 1/2 hose stream puts out large amounts of water or foam directly on to the hottest parts of the fire which in this case is the major load bearing structure. http://www.wsbtv.com/news/photos/gallery-i-85-collapse-aftermath/507896041# Look at pic no 3. The concrete become brittle enough that it fell off the steel reinforcing in the concrete… Read more »

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

As someone who lives in the area I can tell you its a HOT mess on the surface roads. All of 85 traffic is exiting onto Cheshire Br Rd. All of 400 is exiting in almost the same place on Sidney Marcus. All the roads that cross Cheshire Br Rd (Lavista, Sheridan, etc.) are backed up almost a half mile pointed towards Cheshire Br. If there is a silver lining, perhaps the guys at GA Tech can rig up a study of how people adapt to losing freeway access. Hopefully they can learn something valuable from it. As all things… Read more »

Benevolus
ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

I meant in “real time”

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

I’d also say that those MARTA Park and Ride lots will be full the next couple of months

ScottNAtlanta
ScottNAtlanta

It just took me 1 1/2 hours to get from Sage Hill area (Briarcliff and Johnson Rd) to Home Depot on Lindbergh and back…this is by no means sustainable. Every street headed in the direction of Cheshire Bridge Rd is backed up for miles

Noway2016
Noway2016

Three arrested in connection w fire. If true, God what have you people done???

Saltycracker
Saltycracker

The U.S. has unfavorable attention for being one of the worst nations in the world in cost and time building infrastructure due to multiple negative factors, regulation, corruption, relationships, unions, political indecision…….
Charts in major publications are ugly.

On the lighter side msybe we can get China to help:
https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=BW9xycnEU3o

Benevolus
Benevolus

“regulation, corruption, relationships, unions, political indecision…….” I don’t know how to measure it, but I would think the biggest reason we don’t spend money on this stuff is because so many people want their taxes cut, so there is no money. regulation- who would oppose our infrastructure improvements because of regulations? Sure it drives up costs a bit, but for good reason! corruption- how does this prevent infrastructure from being done? I would think it would add motivation to do it. relationships- again, how is this a hindrance? political indecision- the indecision only comes from those who don’t think the… Read more »