The latest on the collapse of a portion of I-85 in Atlanta

Smoke billows from a section of an overpass that collapsed from a large fire on Interstate 85 in Atlanta, Thursday, March 30, 2017. Witnesses say troopers were telling cars to turn around on the bridge because they were concerned about its integrity. Minutes later, the bridge collapsed. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

ATLANTA (AP) – The Latest on the collapse of a section of an interstate in Atlanta (all times local):

11:10 a.m. – Commuters in Atlanta have been struggling to get to work on time the morning after a section of Interstate 85 collapsed, forcing them to find alternate routes.

Connie Bailey-Blake of Dacula, 37 miles northeast of Atlanta, was catching a MARTA commuter train Friday morning to reach her job in downtown Atlanta. She typically drives 46 miles to work, often using the interstate.

Bailey-Blake said: “The first few days are going to be difficult.” She arrived at the train station at 9:15 a.m. – 15 minutes past when her work day was supposed to start.

Amelia Ford, who lives in Atlanta, opted to find another route to work by car Friday said it took her 45 minutes to travel 3 miles from her home to the nearest open interstate exit. She said other drivers were being “surprisingly, pretty patient.”

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10 a.m. – A man who was watching as a section of Interstate 85 in Atlanta collapsed said he heard several explosions under the bridge and then a slow rumbling as the structure collapsed.

Bobby Barnhart works in sales for a financial technology company near the interstate. He said he and his colleagues were watching from about 60 yards away as the fire raged and the bridge went down during rush hour Thursday afternoon.

“It was a loud, muted rumble. It was a big sound. You could feel the vibrations,” he said.

With the interstate closed in both directions, he said his Friday commute into work on nearby streets was much more jammed than usual, taking him about 30 minutes rather than the normal 10 to 15 minutes.

Crews work on a section of an overpass that collapsed from a large fire on Interstate 85 in Atlanta, Friday, March 31, 2017. Many commuters in some of Atlanta’s densely populated northern suburbs will have to find alternate routes or ride public transit for the foreseeable future after a massive fire caused a bridge on Interstate 85 to collapse Thursday, completely shutting down the heavily traveled highway. (AP Photo/David Goldman)

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9:20 a.m. – Bridge inspectors have determined that the southbound lanes of Interstate 85 sustained damage from a fire that caused the adjacent northbound section to collapse and will also need to remain closed for the foreseeable future.

Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry said in a news release Friday that the extent of the fire-related damage will require extensive reconstruction to ensure driver safety.

McMurry said the agency hasn’t been able to assess the full extent of the damage because of lingering hotspots. He said it’s unclear how long the reconstruction will take but that it’s expected to be time consuming.

McMurry says the fire started in an area that was used as a storage location for construction materials, equipment and supplies. Authorities are still working to determine how the fire started.

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8:45 a.m. – Streets in Atlanta were clogged with traffic Friday morning after a massive fire caused a section of Interstate 85 to collapse, closing the major artery for the foreseeable future.

Meanwhile, the Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, or MARTA, added extra trains to accommodate additional passengers who may try to avoid the roads altogether.

MARTA CEO Keith Parker told The Associated Press the transit system was seeing strong crowds but that everything was going well.

He urged people to remember that trains can get people from the system’s northernmost points to downtown in about 20 minutes and that a trip between downtown and the airport takes about 15 minutes.

The collapse happened during the afternoon rush hour on Thursday and officials have said there’s no way to tell when the highway can be safely reopened to traffic in either direction.

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5:45 a.m. – Atlanta’s rapid transit system is increasing service to accommodate increased ridership expected after a massive fire caused a section of Interstate 85 to collapse.

The Metropolitan Atlanta Rapid Transit Authority, or MARTA, says it’s increasing rail services and will have additional staff on hand to help passengers.

The fire and subsequent collapse happened during the Thursday afternoon rush hour. Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry says there’s no way to tell when the highway can be safely reopened to traffic in either direction.

The interstate, which carries 250,000 cars a day, is a major thoroughfare for traffic heading north and south through Atlanta. Georgia State Patrol Commissioner Mark McDonough says the bridge collapse effectively “puts a cork in the bottle.”

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4:40 a.m. – A major effect on traffic in a city already known for gridlock is expected after a massive fire caused a bridge on Interstate 85 to collapse in Atlanta.

Georgia’s top transportation official says there’s no way to tell when the highway can be safely reopened to traffic in either direction following the collapse, which happened Thursday afternoon during rush hour.

Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry says the collapse “will have a tremendous impact on travel.”

The interstate is a major artery for the U.S. South and a thoroughfare for traffic heading north and south through Atlanta.

Traffic was bumper to bumper on nearby streets Thursday night as people scrambled to find alternate routes.

However, officials say no one was hurt despite dramatic images of towering flames and smoke.

 

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