President Trump to meet Atlanta first responders in I-85 collapse

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**Embargo: Atlanta, GA** A section of US Interstate 85 in north Atlanta collapsed Thursday after a massive fire, local officials confirmed.

WASHINGTON, D.C. — The first responders who helped prevent any injuries in Atlanta’s fiery highway collapse were scheduled to meet Thursday, April 13th with President Donald Trump, according to the White House.

At the same time, the state of Georgia has kicked into high gear to rebuild the section of Interstate 85 that collapsed after a massive fire March 30. It has announced a series of incentives for the construction company rebuilding the highway.

President Trump was expected to host the first responders at 2 p.m. in the Roosevelt Room of the White House.

The meeting comes two weeks after an elevated portion of I-85, a major north-south artery in the Southeast, collapsed during evening rush hour. A blaze ignited in a fenced-in area under the highway, where the state stored construction materials, officials said.

The flames weakened the structure and caused its collapse, experts said. All five lines of the highway in each direction have been closed since then, causing widespread traffic issues in the city.

Amazingly, no one was injured in the fire and collapse. Shortly after arriving on the scene, firefighters sensed the highway’s collapse was imminent and stopped traffic on I-85, according to Atlanta Fire Rescue Department spokesman Sgt. Cortez Stafford.

“I believe that saved a lot of lives,” Stafford said. “People were driving by, not paying attention, taking pictures with camera phones.

“My guys put a truck in the middle of the interstate and said, ‘Hey you can’t go by.’ ”

Authorities have arrested three people, including one man facing a first-degree arson charge, in connection with starting the fire.

$3.1 million incentives for speedy rebuild

Reconstruction of I-85 moved ahead Wednesday, with the Georgia Department of Transportation announcing it was close to a final agreement with C.W. Matthews Contracting Co. to expedite the work.

The agreement sets the project’s deadline at June 15, with incentives for completing it sooner. If the highway is finished earlier, C.W. Matthews could receive a maximum of $3.1 million in incentives, according to the Georgia DOT.

This type of incentives-based contract has been used for other similar highway collapses, such as those in Oakland, California, in 2007 and Birmingham, Alabama, in 2002.

The Georgia DOT lauded the “significant progress” in the past two weeks, including the demolition and removal of debris, engineering and design of the bridge, and the initial rebuilding.

“I am very impressed with how quickly Georgia DOT diagnosed the problem, completed the demolition and started construction, as well as how quickly this road will be reopened,” US Sen. David Perdue, R-Georgia, said in a statement.