Fiery I-85 bridge collapse is economic blow to Atlanta businesses

Around 7 p.m. Thursday, crews were battling a massive fire on I-85 northbound just south of Ga. 400 when a section of the highway collapsed, officials said.

Fire officials extinguished it on Thursday night after it burned for more than an hour, fire officials said.

» RELATED: 7 things to know about the fiery I-85 bridge collapse

“It’s a massive productivity issue,” said Brian McGowan, a former CEO of Atlanta’s economic development arm and now a principal in the U.S. Public Policy and Regulation practice at law firm Dentons.

“You are going to have hundreds or thousands of companies who can’t get their employees to work on time.”

» RELATED: Fulton County offices delay Friday opening after fiery I-85 bridge collapse

The public sector will also take a blow as tens of thousands of government workers also will be affected.

McGowan said the short-term potential losses are substantial. It will disrupt businesses’ supply chains. Families will have to re-think how they travel around the city.

» PHOTOS: Atlanta I-85 fire -- Highway bridge collapses near Piedmont Road

The collapse of the bridge will shift sales at restaurants as diners chose other places to eat because of convenience.

And like the infamous Snowjam debacle of 2014, McGowan said, “it once again highlights the vulnerability of the Atlanta transportation system.”

In economic development, the recruiting of companies and major corporate expansions, companies look for reasons to choose cities as well as reasons not to choose cities. Infrastructure has long been a knock on Atlanta.

The city has passed a roads and bridges sales tax, an infrastructure bond and a $2.5 billion expansion of MARTA. But many of those projects will take years to develop.

A large fire has collapsed a section of I-85 in Atlanta. (WSB/Cox Media Group)

Credit: WSB/Cox Media Group

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Credit: WSB/Cox Media Group

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