SOPERTON — Crews demolished a damaged overpass above Interstate 16 in Treutlen County and have hauled away most of the debris with the aim of reopening a seven-mile stretch of the road soon, authorities said Friday.
The Georgia Department of Transportation said crews worked through the night to break up the overpass and removed its remains Friday. The work went more quickly than expected and authorities said one westbound lane could reopen late Friday night or early Saturday morning.
Authorities said they hope to reopen all of Interstate 16, which connects much of Georgia to its coastline, by early next week after a crash knocked the overpass bridge from its support beams. Officials decided the fastest and safest way to reopen I-16 is to destroy the badly damaged overpass and replace it.
The plan is to open one of the westbound lanes – Savannah to Macon – by late Friday night or early Saturday morning and one of the eastbound lanes by Saturday, said Russell McMurry, commissioner of the Georgia Department of Transportation.
Repairs to the overpass went faster than anticipated, said Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, who flew to the site by helicopter to brief reporters on the progress.
“Really, this team is getting it done a lot quicker than we ever thought it would,” Kemp said.
The stretch of the interstate closed in both directions after a tractor-trailer hit the overpass Thursday is between Exit 71 – Soperton, Adrian, and Exit 78 – Swainsboro, Soperton. Detours have been set up on nearby roads to reroute traffic back to 16 in both directions.
“Apparently, the tractor-trailer has a dump bed similar to a dump truck,” McMurry said. “It appears that it was raised, which then struck the bridge.”
The investigation into the crash is in its early stages, but “there are going to be some charges coming," said Lt Col. William Hitchens III of the Georgia Department of Public Safety. He didn't specify what those charges would be, saying that's still under review.