I 85 collapse Major north south artery closed as spring break travel kicks offNEWS: goo.gl/a3kAcQDrivers in one of the nation's most congested cities faced a jarring new reality Friday as they were forced to game out how to get around a collapsed portion of Atlanta's Interstate 85 -- one of the Southeast's major north-south arteries.A mysterious fire collapsed an I-85 northbound overpass Thursday evening -- injuring no one -- and also damaged the southbound portion, forcing the closure of all five lanes in each direction for the foreseeable future.The shutdown likely sets the city up for traffic headaches for months to come after creating navigation hell on Thursday with jams that extended five miles or more and stranded motorists in the immediate area for hours.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 set to play a preseason game Friday night in their new stadium in the city's northwest corner."I think it's as serious a transportation crisis as we could have," Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said Thursday evening.Latest developments• It will take "at least several months" to rebuild the collapsed and otherwise damaged portions of I-85, Georgia Department of Transportation Commissioner Russell McMurry told reporters Friday afternoon.• Three sections of northbound I-85 -- including the section that collapsed -- and three sections of southbound I-85 will have to be replaced, McMurry said. That's 350 feet of highway -- nearly a football field -- in each direction, he said. Demolition of these sections started Friday and will last into Monday, McMurry said.• The cause of the fire isn't known, McMurry said.• Measuring the traffic impact with that section of I-85 closed: There has been a 50% increase on the Interstate 285 ring around Atlanta, and a 25% increase in traffic on major city streets near the closed area, he said.Flames from a massive fire that eventually led a portion of the highway to collapse are seen Thursday along Interstate 85 in Atlanta.The fire started Thursday evening under an I-85 overpass in north-central Atlanta, north of the highway's split with I-75.The flames ignited in an area where the state stores construction materials and supplies near the overpass, McMurry said.At first, I-85 motorists drove through the smoke, and firefighters fought the flames below. It eventually grew into a massive fireball."There was a 40-feet or higher wall of fire. Power lines were falling and arcing heavily and falling in the streets," Cortez Stafford, a spokesman for the Atlanta Fire Department, told CNN.The elevated span of highway collapsed about 7 p.m. ET, as crews battling the fire got out of danger's way.As concrete began falling from under the bridge, firefighters were asked to step back, Stafford said. "Not even two minutes later, the highway fell with a big 'kaboom.' (It) knocked our guys back."While the highway is normally jammed with cars around that time, there were no fatalities, Reed said.
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