Bill for I-85 bridge collapse still rising

The cost of the I-85 bridge collapse continues to rise as Georgia tallies indirect costs associated with the closure of one of the main highways into the heart of Atlanta.

Georgia transportation officials told state lawmakers Tuesday they will ask the federal government to pay millions of dollars more for an expansion of MARTA service and other expenses related to the March bridge collapse. Those expenses are in addition to the construction costs for the new bridge, which could be as much as $16.6 million.

UP-DATE: I-85 bridge to reopen by May 26

YOUR STORY: Do you commute an hour or more for work? Tell us.

Georgia Department of Transportation Chief Engineer Meg Pirkle said the final tab for the associated costs is not yet available. But she said it would be in the millions of dollars — and the federal government is expected to pay the entire amount. The U.S. Department of Transportation has already paid $10 million toward the cost of building the new bridge.

“We know we’re going to need more than $10 million, and we’ll be requesting that from the Federal Highway Administration,” Pirkle told the state House of Representatives Transportation Committee Tuesday.

A section of I-85 went up in flames March 30 after a fire allegedly started by a homeless man spread to construction material GDOT stored beneath the bridge.

IN-DEPTH: Who’s to blame for Atlanta bridge collapse?

The construction-related costs for rebuilding it include $11.9 million to build the new bridge, $1.6 million for demolition of the old one and up to $3.1 million in incentives for contractor C.W. Matthews to complete the work before June 15. The U.S. Department of Transportation is expected to pay 90 percent of the construction cost.

Pirkle told lawmakers the federal government would pay 100 percent of the cost of the emergency response to the bridge collapse. It’s a broad category of expenditures that includes expanded transit service, employee overtime and traffic control — even the cost of detour signs.

GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry told lawmakers the state has 180 days to submit the costs to the federal government.

Meanwhile, construction continues on the new bridge. Last week, McMurry said the project will be finished before May 26. But McMurry and Gov. Nathan Deal have scheduled a news conference for Wednesday morning and may provide an updated schedule.