As darkness fell on fire-damaged I-85 in downtown Atlanta last April, uncertainty was as pervasive as the smoke and rubble. How extensive was the damage beyond the collapsed 700-ft section of elevated highway, what repair and replacement options were feasible, and how long would it take to restore one of the city’s primary highway corridors?

Adam Grist, vice president of structures for contractor C.W. Matthews Contracting Co. Inc., led the Georgia Dept. of Transportation’s emergency effort to turn answers into action. Capitalizing on nearly 24/7 collaboration and communication between DOT and the jobsite, Grist oversaw more than 100 hourly workers and supervisors who would invest about 35,000 staff-hours to condense into just six weeks the originally estimated three months of demolition and repair. Agency Commissioner Russell McMurry called it “probably the most inspected, most scrutinized construction project Georgia DOT has ever undertaken.”

Adam M. GristAdam M. Grist
Marietta, Ga.
ENR 5/10/17 online
DOT officials praise this C.W. Matthews vice president for a “highly proactive” emergency rebuild of a key Atlanta artery after 700 ft collapsed.

Marc Mastronardi, GDOT director of construction, cites Grist’s ability to anticipate strategies to maintain the rebuild’s momentum. “He saw not only the current need but also what the next steps would be,” Mastronardi says. “That made for a highly proactive process.”

Further, Grist was integral to ensuring the project team’s openness to both tried-and-true practices and innovations, such as accelerated concrete mixes for columns and decks that achieved required compression strength in a matter of days. Mastronardi said the federal government covered 90% of the estimated $16.6-million rebuild contract.

Mastronardi said the valuable experience GDOT gained in early completion incentives and escalation matrices will help it in future infrastructure emergencies.

Grist himself discounts any suggestion of a “magic solution” to overcome the I-85 rebuild’s pressures and challenges. “It just shows what can be done when a great team of people works together,” he says. 

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