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At Atlanta’s Interstate 85 collapse, workers now have 3.1M reasons to finish by mid-May

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Incentives for early completion could mean work moves much faster than anticipated, assuming a lawsuit doesn't slow things down

An aerial image of demolition, with four sections missing and one being torn down.
Demolition of the interstate last week.

It’s been two weeks since a massive fire beneath Interstate 85 brought down a span of the elevated interstate—and compromised five more—plunging Atlanta into traffic chaos.

When the Georgia Department of Transportation announced last week that construction to rebuild the I-85 bridge could wrap in just 10 weeks, Atlantans impacted by the collapse rejoiced.

While the date for completion is technically June 15, the AJC reports that a large incentives package totaling $3.1 million could entice contractor C.W. Matthews to complete the work as soon as May 21, before the heavy travel period of Memorial Day weekend.

As has been the case in other similarly afflicted cities, the DOT has offered a hefty bonus for early completion of the project.

If the work is done before the weekend rush for Memorial Day begins—Thursday, May 25—they will receive $1.5 million in bonuses. If that three-week incentive isn’t enough, completion by May 21 could net the firm an additional $500,000.

To receive the maximum bonus of $3.1 million, C.W. Matthews would have to finish the project by May 15, earning a total of $200,000 extra per day, up to the max.

So the incentive fees are now known, but the total cost for the reconstruction is still a mystery.

A photo of the fire, seen from Ponce City Market.
Michael Kahn, Curbed Atlanta

While most Atlantans are happy about the speed of progress, the plans for work to continue around the clock until the bridge is completed are rubbing some the wrong way.

A lawsuit levied by a nearby resident could hamper the ambitious timeline.

According to the AJC, a resident in the adjacent Optimist Lofts has filed a lawsuit in Fulton County Superior Court, alleging that the round-the-clock work is adversely impacting his life.

While other residents commiserate, many expressed that they understood the need for the nightly work in order to help Atlanta get moving again.

Given the importance of the interstate artery to not just Atlanta, but the entire Southeast, it seems unlikely the lawsuit will move forward.

With columns currently being rebuilt, and beams already cast, the truncated timeline could be a reality.