Students, parents and anyone who travels the I-85 corridor to get to work or school will have to alter their routine for several months after a section of NB 85 near Piedmont Road collapsed during a raging fire on Thursday evening.
Thick black smoke and flames engulfed the highway during evening rush hour when construction materials being stored under the Buford/Spring Connector ignited. Firefighters from Atlanta and surrounding areas worked diligently to extinguish the flames while hundreds of thousands of motorists watched from their cars.
Georgia State Police halted traffic and kept cars away from the fiery area. Following the bridge collapse, crews dispatched from Hartsfield Jackson International Airport assisted with foam used to extinguish fires at the airport. At midnight after most of the flames had died down firefighters were still on the scene keeping hot spots from reigniting.
Traffic is expected to be a nightmare for several months while the highway is rebuilt. To help alleviate some of the traffic congestion on Friday morning Dekalb County schools will be closed for the day. Atlanta schools are scheduled to open on time. State workers will be able to arrive to work by 10 a.m.
Governor Nathan Deal declared a state of emergency. Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed assured everyone that the fire did not result from an act of terrorism.
Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry said the area will have to be evaluated fully. That evaluation should begin on Friday morning. As many as 250 thousand cars travel along I-85 daily.
If you are trying to figure out a way to get around the area traffic detours have been set up on SB 85 at Shallowford Road, NB 85 traffic is being diverted from the Downtown Connector to I-75 at 17th Street, SB 75 traffic cannot merge onto NB 85 in midtown.
Plan to leave at least an hour and a half earlier than normal to get to your destination on Friday. Many side streets are expected to be overwhelmed with thousands of additional vehicles attempting to get into midtown and downtown. Thankfully, no one was injured in the fire and collapse of the highway. Were you in the backup? Leave a comment and photo and let us know how you made out.