The closure comes at a sensitive time for a city accustomed to gridlock - with hordes of spring break vacationers poised to drive though the regional hub and the Atlanta Braves playing a preseason game Friday night in their new stadium northwest of the city.
Three people have been arrested in connection with a fire that collapsed an elevated portion of a major road in Atlanta and shut down the heavily travelled route through the heart of the city.
The Atlanta Police Department issues a traffic alert advising drivers to find alternate routes around the area. Investigators believe one of the suspects started the fire intentionally, said Jay Florence, the state's deputy insurance and safety fire commissioner. Bruner and Thomas were charged with criminal trespass. Atlanta's awful rush-hour traffic.
Joel Baker, Atlanta Fire Chief, said crews "heard the cracking of the concrete".
"With fires, especially fires that burn for long periods and with high heat, you can see structures, anything from buildings to bridges, can have their material properties degrade", Ms Stewart said.More news: Wall Street on track to close out positive first quarter
Stafford told the Post that passerby originally thought the smoke was from a auto fire, but firefighters realized that there was a bigger problem upon arriving on scene-they couldn't get close enough to hose down the "50-foot wall of fire", Stafford said.
The fire ignited in a fenced-in area under the expressway where the state stores construction materials, McMurry said. Investigators spoke with the suspects Friday night but have not released more details on what the trio was doing before the fire broke out.
The collapse of a span of Interstate 85 in Atlanta during a raging fire isn't the first time intense heat has taken out a stretch of elevated roadway.
Herrmann said concrete will undergo severe cracking at about 1,500 degrees Fahrenheit and start disintegrating at higher temperatures.
Amelia Ford, who lives in Atlanta, opted to find another route to work by auto Friday said it took her 45 minutes to travel 3 miles from her home to the nearest open interstate exit.More news: Israel set to approve first new settlement in 20 years
Georgia's top transportation official said there's no way to tell when the highway, which carries 250,000 cars a day, can be safely reopened to traffic in either direction following the collapse, which happened Thursday afternoon during rush hour. That's 350 feet of highway - almost a football field - in each direction, he said.
State officials say it will take months to fix the north and south sections of the interstate.
McMurry said his department stored coils of plastic conduit, used in fiber optic networks, beneath the span but insisted they were noncombustible.
He said repairs will take months but declined to be more specific.
On Friday, GDOT and other state officials gave an update on the status of the destruction.More news: Donald Harvey, 'Angel of Death' Serial Killer, Beaten in Prison
U.S. transportation secretary Elaine Chao released $10m for the initial fix work, and the Federal Highway Administration promised more in emergency fix funds.