A collapsed section of I-85 in Atlanta appears to be on track to be restored by mid-June, Georgia Dept. of Transportation officials say.

A week after the March 30 incident, the result of a fire intentionally set inside a fenced GDOT storage area, Marietta, Ga.-based C.W. Matthews Construction had cleared debris and begun retrofitting surviving columns with an eye toward pouring new caps the week of April 10.

“We did not expect this kind of progress,” Marc Mastronardi, director of construction for GDOT, told reporters on April 7. “This is very fast.”

Although GDOT had the original plans for the elevated section, reconstructed in 1985, the agency’s engineers redesigned 61 prestressed replacement beams to expedite fabrication at Standard Concrete Products’ Atlanta and Savannah plants. Mastronardi says GDOT has waived haul restrictions, allowing completed beams to ship 24 hours a day.

GDOT says other time-saving methods include prefabricated steel diaphragms and accelerated concrete-mix designs.

GDOT has yet to announce the cost, pending approval from federal agencies that are expected to fund a significant share of the work. Mastronardi says GDOT’s contract with C.W. Matthews will include both early completion incentives and missed-deadline penalties.

Meanwhile, the Atlanta fire has kindled industry discussion about the practice of staging construction materials beneath bridges and other elevated structures, even for short periods. After the collapse, other state departments of transportation reportedly dispatched crews to inspect and remove potentially combustible materials.

According to GDOT Commissioner Russell McMurry, the HDPE conduit that intensified the fire was purchased for a 2007 advanced traffic management system project that subsequently was canceled. Hoping to use the conduit elsewhere, GDOT relocated it in a fenced and locked area beneath I-85 in 2011.

GDOT has since initiated a statewide review of its materials storage practices.