Chamblee/Brookhaven, GA, June 27, 2017 – by Renee Turner for The Post – The Chamblee and Brookhaven Chambers of Commerce held a joint Breakfast Meeting recently where Georgia Department of Transportation (GDOT) Commissioner Russell McMurry, P.E. spoke on key issues concerning current and future infrastructure GDOT projects, its HERO unit program, and traffic concerns impacting north Atlanta. He also reflected on GDOT’s efforts to repair the fire damaged and collapsed bridge portion of I-85 at Piedmont Rd.
McMurry explained that shortly after the fire broke out, he started receiving notifications from a number of HERO (Highway Emergency Response Operators) units. “The HERO’s will tell you there are fires all the time,” said McMurry. “So, when I get this text, then another, and another…I said ‘oh, my!'”.
To replace the 700-foot section of roadway and to re-open the corridor quickly and safely, GDOT says around 13 million pounds of debris was removed, and 13 columns, 61 beams and four caps were replaced. A total of 505,296 pounds of steel and 2,103 cubic yards of concrete were used in the rebuild. McMurry said it was amazing to see what could be done in a 6-week timeframe with the highway closed and no traffic going through the construction zone.
Switching gears with the collapse in the past, McMurry turned to current and future projects. He shared details of GDOT’s Major Mobility Investment Program and underscored the capabilities of the Department that has some 11 transportation projects including new express lanes on I-75, adding 10 new miles of I-85 creating more mobility, building a connected system for transit with I-285 and I-75 and widening I-285 in Gwinnett County. He also noted that the PCID (Perimeter Community Improvement Districts) gave GDOT a $10 million check for the I-285/Georgia 400 project.
McMurry noted that with approximately 40% of metro-area traffic along I-75 being trucks, his department is looking for ways to separate them from cars. He said it would be “a win” if that can be accomplished.
He ended by speaking of his appearance at the infrastructure roundtable in Washington with President Trump and U.S. Department of Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao during the recent Infrastructure Week. Along with nine other DOT officials, the panel discussion with President Trump and the Secretary included the concern to get everyone on the same team and work together to make transportation projects happen faster. The Roads, Rails and Regulatory Relief Roundtable discussion included topics on rural infrastructure, permitting reform and environmental regulations.
“I am honored to have had the opportunity to have a seat at the table during this important discussion to represent Georgia,” McMurry said. “It was enlightening to hear from other state DOT leaders who face similar issues, and most importantly the emphasis President Trump and Secretary Chao have placed on rebuilding the nation’s infrastructure.”
Responding to audience questions, the Commissioner mentioned looking into the feasibility of creating tunnels and possibly creating two new lanes from I-85 to I-75 to keep traffic moving. PDK Airport Director Mario Evans asked about GDOT placing more focus on airports. McMurry responded by saying there is legislative appropriation investment in airports that has a backlog in funding where federal funding is estimated at $20 million.