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Exit 14 set to open Sept. 3 — except for the bridge
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The bridge over interstate 985 at exit 14 is being redone because of failed strength tests. - photo by Austin Steele

Motorists will be able to use the new Exit 14’s entrance and exit ramps on Sept. 3, but the bridge spanning Interstate 985 will be off limits until later in the year.

“We don’t have a date yet for when the bridge will be open,” Georgia Department of Transportation District Engineer Brandon Kirby said Wednesday, Aug. 21.

The bridge appeared finished earlier this year, spanning Interstate 985 while the rest of the interchange project was taking shape. But then, three of the driving surface’s four spans failed strength tests.

A redo of the spans started in May and was expected to last 12 weeks, so there was hope the work could be finished by Aug. 31 — the deadline in contractor G.P.’s Enterprises’ contract.

Repairs involved removing all the concrete on the driving surface through “hydroblasting,” or extreme high-pressure water, then pouring in new concrete.

“I think the demo technique is slow and really just boils down to man hours and equipment, and just taking the time,” Kirby said. “There’s only a couple of different methods to try to get the bridge deck off and none of them are fast.”

G.P.’s Enterprises will be charged a penalty for each day crews work past Aug. 31. The amount wasn’t immediately available.

Kirby said in a May interview the bridge’s problems were “really a material issue,” not contractor error.

The concrete “wasn’t workmanship” quality, he said.

“It wasn’t that the contractor didn’t do a good job pouring the bridge deck or that our technicians did a poor job inspecting the pour itself,” Kirby said. “I don’t want to get into who’s at fault in mixing it or anything like that. I don’t have that information. We just look at the end product.”

When the $34 million project is completely done, the bridge will serve as the overpass for Exit 14, connecting Martin Road at Falcon Parkway/Ga. 13 on the east side of I-985 to H.F. Reed at Thurmon Tanner Parkway on the west side.

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Concrete is stripped away using a process called hydro-blasting exposing metal rebar on the Interstate 985 bridge near exit 14 using high pressured water to make repairs on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. The bridge is currently being redone after failing strength tests in February. - photo by Austin Steele