Atlanta News affiliate WGCL reports that three suspects have been arrested in connection with a massive fire that destroyed part of Atlanta's Interstate 85. Sophia Brauer, Barry Thomas, and Basil Eleby were arrested early Friday evening, with Brauer and Thomas facing trespassing charges and Eleby charged with first-degree criminal damage to property.
According to police sources, the three were under the bridge when Eleby allegedly set a shopping cart and chair on fire. One source has told NPR that plastic pipes stored under the highway fueled the fire, though a DOT official described the pipes as "non-combustible," and a police source told WGCL that the fire burned piles of plastic wiring.
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Whatever its fuel, the blaze generated towers of black smoke, and ultimately caused the collapse of a 350-foot section of the highway. Miraculously, there were no injuries, but both sides of road will have to be repaired before it can be re-opened. Officials have estimated that will take several months, and the U.S. Department of Transportation and Federal Highway Administration have pledged emergency funds for the repairs.
In the meantime, Atlanta commuters, particularly from outlying suburbs, are predicted to face substantial ongoing delays. NPR reports that the road normally carries around 250,000 cars a day. To mitigate congestion, Atlanta's MARTA rail system will be getting extra staff. But on the day after the collapse, many commuters seemingly opted to drive on alternative roads, causing serious and widespread congestion.
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