Busy road in NE Atlanta could take 1 year to reopen after bridge fire

Workers repair a bridge on Cheshire Bridge Road after a fire Aug. 4.
Caption
Workers repair a bridge on Cheshire Bridge Road after a fire Aug. 4.

Credit: JOHN SPINK / AJC

A busy road in northeast Atlanta could take a year or more to reopen if a fire-damaged bridge requires a complete rebuild, city transportation officials said.

In a city council meeting Wednesday, Atlanta Department of Transportation Commissioner Josh Rowan said the worst-case scenario for the damaged bridge on Cheshire Bridge Road would require total demolition and building a new bridge from scratch.

Caption
Cheshire Bridge Road has been closed indefinitely between Woodland and Faulkner roads.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Cheshire Bridge Road has been closed indefinitely between Woodland and Faulkner roads.
Caption
Cheshire Bridge Road has been closed indefinitely between Woodland and Faulkner roads.

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

Credit: Channel 2 Action News

The fire under the bridge, which was further fueled when it damaged a 4-inch gas line, began the night of Aug. 4 and burned with intensity for about 24 hours. It caused enough damage to leave the bridge, which crosses over Peachtree Creek, unsafe and impassable, according to DOT officials. Cheshire Bridge Road has been closed indefinitely between Woodland and Faulkner roads.

ExploreNo timeline to reopen NE Atlanta bridge ‘severely compromised’ by fire

The closure will remain in place until further notice, Rowan said. He added that, although a week has passed since the original fire, safety professionals have not been able to get underneath the bridge to properly assess the damage.

“The response side of this effort we deem as complete — the bridge is closed,” Rowan said. “It’s a very hazardous situation, so now we are shifting gears to the (recovery) effort which we are branding the Cheshire Bridge Rebuild ... but we are also planning for the worst, which would be a total demolition and total rebuild of the bridge. Based on the information we have at this time, the ballpark estimate for demolishing the bridge, designing a new bridge and rebuilding the new bridge, at best, is one year.”

The Atlanta DOT has issued an emergency RFP (Request for Proposal) for bridge demolition and is expecting responses from contractors by noon Thursday, Rowan said. The agency is working on a second RFP for emergency bridge design that will be distributed to potential partners by Aug. 23. Multiple utilities that have pipes and cables incorporated into the current bridge will be relocating those conduits.

Councilmember Matt Westmoreland questioned Rowan about the year-long timeline, noting that the I-85 bridge that collapsed in 2017 was repaired in just a few months.

“It’s really a case of apples and oranges,” Rowan said.

The key difference, he said, is that the bridge over Peachtree Creek is anticipated to be a total loss. The original bridge was built in the 1930s and has been widened multiple times, but will likely need to be demolished down to its foundations.

The I-85 collapse required a rebuild of the elevated road surface but not any reconstruction of the supporting structure, Rowan said.

In the meantime, a detour has been installed and the Atlanta DOT has worked with mapping services like Waze and Google Maps to have the closure added to those popular navigation services, Rowan said. Officials with the Georgia DOT’s bridge division have assisted the city agency throughout the process of closing and evaluating the existing bridge.

The Atlanta DOT has posted detour directions on its website. Lenox Road and Piedmont Road are the nearest roads that cross Peachtree Creek and will likely see increased traffic during the Cheshire Bridge Road closure.

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