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How fixing failed bridge over I-985 will affect your drive
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Concrete is stripped away on the Interstate 985 bridge near exit 14 using a process called hydro blasting, where high pressured water blasts the concrete driving surface off, to make repairs on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. The bridge is currently being redone after failing strength tests in February. - photo by Austin Steele

A bridge that should have been checked off long ago as one of the completed tasks in a South Hall interchange project is now set to be finished right at the project’s overall completion date.

“At this point, the contractor hasn’t officially asked for additional time on the project,” Georgia Department of Transportation district spokeswoman Katie Strickland said.

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 last week and was expected to last 12 weeks. The overall $34 million project has an Aug. 31 completion date.

Troubled bridge

A chronology on the flawed bridge over Interstate 985 as part of the Exit 14 project in South Hall:

Nov. 27: State bridge engineer acknowledges failed cylinder test

Dec. 13: DOT asks contractor to submit a plan of removing the bridge deck

Feb. 14: DOT notifies contractor must replace three deck spans of driving surface

March: DOT says three of the bridge’s four driving deck spans don’t meet standards; District Engineer Brandon Kirby says the issue is related to faulty materials, not contractor error

May 28: Work begins to replace concrete, with the projected completion in 12 weeks

District Engineer Brandon Kirby spoke to The Times in late May about the bridge and efforts to fix it, including what drivers should expect in terms of I-985 lane closures.

DOT records obtained by The Times show that problems with the bridge surfaced last fall.

“The Bridge Office does not recommend accepting the concrete based on the cylinder tests that have now been confirmed with core test,” said Bill DuVall, state bridge engineer, in a Nov. 27 email.

In a Dec. 13 letter, the DOT asks the contractor, G.P.’s Enterprises, to submit a plan of removing the bridge deck. And in a Feb. 14 letter, the DOT told G.P.’s, “Our review and analysis of both current facts and future unknowns leaves us with no option but to request (the three) deck spans … be replaced in their entirety.”

Kirby has said the problems were “really a material issue,” not contractor error.

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

“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,” he added. “I don’t have that information. We just look at the end product.”

The strength test — basically checking to see if the concrete has gained full strength 28 days after pouring — is “not something we can test for prior to the pour,” Kirby said.

When all is 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.

There are two other bridges that are part of the project — essentially ramps that help make up the diamond interchange. Except for the overpass being fixed now, “all the bridge and ramp concrete out there is good,” Kirby said.

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Machines using high pressured water, a process called hydro-blasting, remove concrete from the Interstate 985 bridge near exit 14 exposing metal rebar on Wednesday, May 29, 2019. The bridge is currently being redone after failing strength tests in February. - photo by Austin Steele
Lane closures

  • 9 a.m. Friday-9 a.m. Saturday

  • 9 p.m. Saturday-9 a.m. Sunday

  • 8 p.m. Monday-6:30 a.m. Tuesday

  • 8 p.m. Tuesday-6:30 a.m. Wednesday

  • 8 p.m. Wednesday-6:30 a.m. Thursday

  • 8 p.m. Thursday-6:30 a.m. Friday

To fix the overpass, single lane closures are set to start Friday, May 31, in a weekend regimen in which crews will work from 9 p.m. Fridays to 9 a.m. Saturdays and then 9 p.m. Saturdays to 9 a.m. Sundays, the DOT has said.

Weekday closures will start at 8 p.m. Monday, June 3, and run until 6:30 a.m. Tuesday, June 4. That daily pattern will run through 6:30 a.m. Friday, June 7. The Monday night-Friday morning schedule will remain throughout the project, as well.

Lane closures will affect I-985 drivers traveling northbound before switching over at some point to southbound lanes.

All the work will be done weather permitting, Strickland has said.

The first phase of repairs involves removing all the concrete on the driving surface through “hydroblasting,” extreme high-pressure water.

“There could be (a concrete mixture) getting down on the roadway,” Kirby said. “We feel like there’s a good containment plan (in place), but just to eliminate the risk of anything hitting the vehicle, we want to take precautionary measures.”

Then, workers will finish out the repairs pouring in new concrete.

“When we pour it back, we won’t have to close lanes,” Kirby said.

How long each phase will take to complete isn’t known yet.

The new driving surface “will be tested the same way the previous concrete was tested,” Strickland said.

As for fixing the bridge, Strickland has said, “There will be no cost to the taxpayer. (DOT) won’t be participating in the costs to correct the deficiencies.”

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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
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