GA DOT Heroes Pave the Way to Lake Lanier

After a massive fire brought down bridges on I-85 in downtown on March 30, 2017, Atlanta’s slogan was changed to,“Come to Atlanta!  What else could possibly go wrong!?”

Traffic, which was insane on a slow day, ramped up geometrically.  That was before the new Atlanta Braves stadium opened at the site of the second-worst traffic-clogged intersection in the galaxy: I-285 and I-75.  While stopped on the “expressway” there one day, I took a photograph of the stadium being built … wondering if the architects had ever tried driving to the site themselves?  Some data you cannot enter into computer aided design programs, such as the gridlocked traffic nearby.  You must see it to fear it.

I-20 Roadway ~ Photo from Channel 2, Atlanta

Then, on Monday, April 17, 2017, a portion of I-20 in Atlanta buckled upward and launched a poor soul and his motorcycle into the air.  At last report, he survived the crash.

In spite of all this, we have good news!  Yes, you CAN get to Lake Lanier through Atlanta.  Yes, it might take a little more time, but you will appreciate the magnificence of the lake even more when you arrive.  If you muster the nerve to leave.

The I-85 bridge repair is expected to be complete by June 15th.  A stunning deadline, considering the magnitude of the destruction caused by the inferno.

Why should we believe that?  Here’s a clue.  I-20 crumpled upward on Monday.  It looked to all of us that it would take a month of miracles to reopen what had become an even more vital path through the hopelessly clogged arteries of Atlanta’s seemingly cursed roadways.

When did the heroes of the GA Department of Transportation fix I-20?  In hours.

Their report is below.  Read it and don’t weep.  Our highways are in the hands of men and women whose superpowers are greater than their Fantastic Foes of the Freeways.

I say, kudos DOT!!!

ATLANTA – After the unexpected buckling of the road surface and subsequent lane closure on Interstate 20 westbound between Flat Shoals and Gresham Roads on Monday, Georgia DOT crews worked through the night and opened all lanes to traffic by 6:30 a.m. on Tuesday—fewer than 19 hours after the first reports of the incident.

The damage was caused by utility work being performed beneath the roadway by Atlanta Gas Light (AGL). “AGL had a permit to jack and bore 525 feet of a 36 inch high pressure steel gas main under I-20 and also 920 feet along Cook Road, which runs parallel to I-20,” said State Utilities Engineer Patrick Allen.  “Both the state and district utilities offices did a thorough and in-depth review of the permit request, deemed the request met all state requirements and that the work was a safe distance beneath the roadway. As a result, a permit was granted to AGL in August 2016.”

After initial notification of the damage at 11:45 a.m. Monday, Metro Atlanta district maintenance crews were dispatched to the site to determine the scope of work and possible repairs needed. Within 45 minutes, GDOT crews analyzed the initial cause of the damage and determined the need for a contractor. Pittman Construction Company was on the scene by 12:30 p.m. to begin assessing necessary repairs. The contractor worked with GDOT crews to begin an exploratory process to determine the scope of necessary repairs to the concrete pavement.  Upon further investigation, it was revealed that in addition to damage to the pavement, there was damage to a 15-inch drainage pipe under the roadway.

By 3 p.m. Monday, GDOT engineers and the contractor determined that the drainage system (a line of pipe) had to be replaced, and they began the arduous work to break up and remove large slabs of concrete and dirt, the most time consuming part of the work.  By 4:30 p.m., crews secured the proper piping, began laying the pipe and making the repairs.

“At approximately 9:30 p.m. the pipe had been placed and compaction completed and crews began the final stages of prepping the surface to pour the concrete slabs for the roadway repair,” said Kathy Zahul, Metro Atlanta District Engineer.

Concrete slabs were poured an hour ahead of schedule, completing that process at 1 a.m. on Tuesday.  The use of “rapid setting concrete” for fast curing and drying of the concrete allowed the roadway to be opened to traffic quicker than if regular curing concrete was used.

By 4:50 a.m., crews cut joints in the concrete slabs to allow for contraction and expansion throughout the life of the pavement.  This process controls cracking and deterioration of the concrete, allowing for a longer service life and reduced maintenance needs.

After the roadway was temporarily striped, it was completely opened to traffic at 6:30 a.m.

“I cannot overemphasize how proud we are of our employees and their commitment to the motorists of Atlanta,” Georgia DOT Commissioner Russell R. McMurry, P.E. said. “This was something that could not be planned for and, once again, our team rose to the challenge and did what needed to be done.”

Thank you, Commissioner McMurry for getting travelers out of “Dodge” and on their way to Lake Lanier!  We are in your debt, kind sir.

About Author

Robert J. Sutherland is a travel writer enjoying life in Gainesville, GA.
Robert has two adult daughters, seven practically perfect grandchildren and a zippy Kawasaki. Contact Robert at [email protected].

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