I-85 UPDATE: Officials say bridge to reopen before May 26

Credit: John Spink

Credit: John Spink

State officials expect to reopen I-85 in Atlanta before May 26 — weeks ahead of their original schedule.

That's just in time for Memorial Day weekend and much sooner than the original June 15 deadline set by the Georgia Department of Transportation.

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The new timeline, announced by GDOT officials today, would be a tremendous relief for hundreds of thousands of commuters who used to use that stretch of highway before it went up in flames March 30.

I-85 has been closed near Piedmont Road in Buckhead since a fire destroyed one of the main highways into the heart of Atlanta. A homeless man, Basil Eleby, has been charged with arson in connection with the fire, which was fueled by construction material GDOT had stored under the bridge.

Since then, contractor C.W. Matthews has been working around the clock to build 350 feet of I-85 in each direction.

The company has a big incentive to finish quickly: It will earn an extra $1.5 million if it finishes the work by May 25 and an extra $2 million if it finishes by May 21. GDOT will pay C.W. Matthews an additional $200,000 for each day before May 21, up to a maximum incentive of $3.1 million.

The project is expected to cost up to $16.6 million, with the federal government paying 90 percent of the cost.