The Interstate 85 Atlanta Bridge Collapse Traffic Apocalypse

Today, a major event happened in Atlanta Metro that is going to cause traffic chaos for the next few months.  A section of the Interstate 85 elevated bridge between the Interstate 75 split to the Georgia 400 split collapsed.  The northbound bridge now has a major gap in it.  The southbound bridge is still all intact but we don’t know if the fire has compromised a section of the bridge as well.

Here are some social media reactions to the collapse.

So, what could have caused this fire that has caused a major interstate bridge to collapse?  All you have to do is look at Google Maps!  Apparently, under the bridge there are fiber optic cables that were being stored.  It looks like it could be cable for traffic management systems because no DOT’s anywhere in the country would allow stuff like this to be stored under a major infrastructure corridor.

A viewer sent in a photo to WSB-TV apparently showing the fire starting.

Of course, there will be investigations about how this fire started.  But the Georgia DOT needs to explain why a ton of cables like this were allowed to be stored under a major bridge.  Were these cables for the DOT that they were going to use, or was a private company storing these here for their use?  Either way, this was very stupid!  So, we are now talking about up to six months of major traffic gridlock in the Atlanta Metro, up to six months!

Two major traffic corridors to get into downtown Atlanta from the very crowded northern suburbs are now cut-off.  You can’t take I-85 north of downtown or Georgia 400 into downtown Atlanta.  So, the only two alternatives to get into downtown Atlanta now involves getting onto the Interstate 285 loop.  You can either take the loop south to get to I-20, or you can take the loop west to I-75.  I-285, especially between I-85 and I-75 on the northside of Atlanta is already a jam packed traffic cluster fest every day.  So, let’s add even more traffic to this, yeah its not good!

Now, there is a parallel freeway next I-85 called Georgia 13 or the Buford Spring Connector.  There are ramps on either side of the bridge collapse that could provide a local temporary detour to I-85.

But let’s be honest, those ramps are only one lane and Georgia 13 is only two lanes.  So, it’s like draining a gallon of water with a tiny straw.  I am glad this option is here, but this detour will not be the best solution for the up to 250,000 cars who travel through this section every day.  I-285 or better yet using mass transit will be the best option.

So, with a major traffic corridor shutdown for months.  I want to talk about two things in the Atlanta Metro where I will say, I told you so!  First off, the Atlanta Braves will soon be playing their games in their brand new Suntrust Park.  The park is in one of the worst traffic chokepoints in the entire southeastern USA, the I-75 / I-285 interchange in NW Atlanta.  I wrote a post explaining why I never liked the new Atlanta Braves stadium location, and now I can smile and nod my head.  Now, with even more traffic that will have to go this way to get to work, go home, or run errands, good luck trying to get to the ballpark!  Why was no major mass transit options planned when this park was in the planning stages?

As for mass transit, Atlanta has a subpar mass transit system.  Sure, there is MARTA but it mostly runs inside the I-285 loop except for a portion of the northern route.  With a lack of commuter rail and major bus options in the Atlanta suburbs, people are now going to be bitten in the rear end for not planning mass transit properly!  What will the political fallout be over this bridge collapse and the lack of good mass transit options like light rail or commuter rail?  One thing is for sure, Atlanta needs more mass transit options, and the people living in the suburbs can get over the poorer people using it and coming to the suburbs!

Well, one can wish that we can just fly over this bridge gap like these just some good ole’ boys.


Bridge Collapse in Kentucky

I have been following the breaking news this morning of the U.S. 68/KY 80 bridge over the Tennessee River.  The Eggner’s Ferry Bridge goes over Kentucky Lake between Trigg and Marshall counties and it was hit by a barge at 8:10 PM Thursday night.  This is one very old bridge.  It was opened to traffic in 1932 and was raised in 1943 because of the new Kentucky Lake.  The bridge was slated for replacement with a new modern 4-lane bridge as the road around the bridge was already 4-laned.

The reports have come out saying that the navigational lights on the bridge were not working and were scheduled to be fixed on Friday.  Luckily it looks like no one was hurt or killed in this accident.  There were a couple of cars on the bridge at the time but they all stopped before plunging off the bridge.  The ship called the Delta Mariner was transporting rocket parts from the Huntsville area up the river when it crashed into the bridge.  

The photo above shows the ship going under the bridge during normal times.  You can see the old age of the bridge and how tall the ship is.  Almost not even making it during good conditions.  Most likely what happened is the lake and river level was too high for the ship to cross under the bridge and it hit the bridge and took a span with it.  Hopefully this will spur construction of a better and higher bridge to replace the aging bridge.  Here is an quote on how close it really got for an driver on the bridge.

Robert Parker, 51, of Cadiz, Ky., said he and his wife were traveling northbound on the highway after leaving his stepson’s house in Murray, Ky. They were driving in the rain along the darkened bridge around 8 p.m. when they suddenly noticed a missing 20-foot piece of the bridge, which at that section stands at least 20 feet above the water.
“All of a sudden I see the road’s gone and I hit the brakes,” he said. “It got close.”
Parker said he stopped his pickup within five feet of the missing section. Two cars behind him stopped on his bumper and he saw another car on the other side of the missing section stopped.

If the bridge is deemed to still be structurally sound.  The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet will probably put in an temporary span to replace the missing span.  And they will get going on the construction to replace the bridge for good.  This bridge is way too narrow for the traffic and it needs to be taken down for an modern bridge.  Take a look at this video of the narrow bridge in fog recorded in 2007 before this crash happened.

Photos from WPSD-TV; News Channel 5; WKDZ Radio