ATLANTA – The city shook as the Interstate 85 bridge came tumbling down Thursday night after a massive fire broke out, shutting down traffic for hours. But the bridge was structurally sound--a title that not all bridges in the Peach State can boast.

How many bridges are safe that you drive across every day in Georgia? 

Nationally, there are about 185 million people traveling on approximately 56,000 structurally deficient bridges. Almost 2,000 of those bridges are on interstate highways that intertwine throughout all 50 states. With a total of 14,835 bridges, Georgia ranks No. 27, with 700 bridges in need of attention. 

Those 700 bridges were deemed structurally deficient, according to American Road and Transportation Builders Association (ARTBA), because at least one, if not more, key elements have been regarded as being in poor condition.

Georgia bridges by the numbers:

  • 1,604 bridges are functionally obsolete and do not meet standards.
  • $2 billion of federal money was invested on 1,117 Georgia bridges between 2005 and 2014.
  • 890 new bridges built over last decade.
  • 128 bridges have had reconstruction over last decade.
  • 13,541 bridges need repairs; which the state estimates will cost approximately $27 billion.

Top traveled, deficient bridges in Georgia-
Fulton County:
Interstate 285 over South Utoy Creek | Built in 1966 | 137,730 cars daily

Cobb County:
I-285 over Rmp I-285 Ccbl to I-75S |

Bibb County:
US 41 SBL SR 49 over Rocky Creek | Built in 1924 | 34,880 cars daily

DeKalb County: 
Ponce De Leon over Lullwater Creek | Built in 1922 | 31,650 cars daily

Muscogee County:
Buena Vista Road over Bull Creek | Built in 1924 | 27,180 cars daily
US 80 over Flatrock Creek | Built in 1988 | 26,920 cars daily 
US 280 SR 520 Cor over M-87- Chatt. River- RR | Built in 1962 | 31,400 cars daily

Houston County:
US 129 over Sandy Run Creek | Built in 1981 | 26,910 cars daily

Floyd County:
SR 1 - US 27 over Big Dry Creek | Built in 1947 | 23,080 cars daily


This year, a $1.2 million project is slated to take off in Cobb County, rehabilitating a bridge.

According to GDOT, the work will include deck rehabilitation, anchor bolt repair, painting the steel superstructure and spall repairs on the substructure, at both SR 5 (US 78/US 278) over Sweetwater Creek, and at SR 8 (US 78) over Chattahoochee River. The funding is federal, as is a bridge rehabilitation project on I-285 ramps to I-75 in Cobb County.

In the $1.4 million federally funded project, it will correct erosion, polymer on bridge decks and replace expansion joints.

In 2018, the state has proposed to fund a $16.2 million widening project.

The nearly three-mile long project would widen SR 92/Lake Acworth Drive from US 41/SR 3/Cobb Parkway to Glade Road to a divided four-lane road.

Likewise, in Fulton County, two projects over $1 million are set for 2017.

A $4.2 million replacement bridge for an existing structurally deficient bridge over the Little River is slated for this year in Fulton County. The existing bridge will be maintained while the proposed bridge is constructed.

Another project comes in at a price tag of $1.8 million with federal money, will include a replacement guard rail with a new concrete median barrier, as well as some repair work like, bearings and edge beams, bridge joint replacement, application of a co-polymer overlay on the bridge deck and painting of the steel superstructure.

Two more bridge projects are slated for 2019, totaling $12 million in federal funding; and one in 2018, for $2.8 million.

(See all projects, click here.)

Nationally, more than 173,919 bridges are at least 50 years old and have never had major reconstruction, according to ARTBA's analysis.

“America’s highway network is woefully underperforming,” Alison Premo Black, the group's chief economics who conducted the analysis, said. “It is outdated, overused, underfunded and in desperate need of modernization.”

Most deficient bridges:

  • Iowa- 4,968
  • Pennsylvania- 4,506
  • Oklahoma- 3,460
  • Missouri- 3,195
  • Nebraska- 2,361

Georgia Bridge Profile 2017

The cause of the fire and subsequent collapse have not been determined. But Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said that city officials have spoken with the FBI and "there is no evidence that this is related to terrorism."

With no injuries reported, according to Atlanta Fire Rescue Sgt. Cortez Stafford, the biggest concern for Atlanta Friday is traffic. Especially since 220,000 people drive that section of the interstate every day, according to Georgia Department of Transportation.

The word "indefinite" is daunting when talking about road closures, especially when it's a main artery into the heart of the city, but 11Alive will get you where you need to be as quickly and safely as possible.

Georgia Gov. Nathan Dea declared a state of emergency for Fulton County and urged drivers to avoid the large section of I-85 if at all possible Thursday night. State government agencies delayed opening until 10 a.m., and employees able to telecommute are encouraged to do so.

“The state is mobilizing all available resources to ensure public safety and minimize disruption of traffic as we continue emergency response efforts,” said Deal.

“The Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) is coordinating response efforts with the Georgia Department of Public Safety (DPS), the Georgia Emergency Management and Homeland Security Agency and other state and local officials. As this safety investigation and bridge assessment continues, we encourage the public to avoid the affected area, remain patient and allow first responders to perform their jobs. We will continue updating the public on alternative traffic routes and other information as it becomes available.”


USA TODAY contributed to the story.