Air Pocket 'Blow Out' Rips Through Surface of I-20 In Atlanta

When the pressure broke through the surface, the road was ripped apart, sections of concrete pushed into the air.

Two lanes on I-20 westbound have reopened after a "blow out" caused the interstate to buckle Monday morning.

Capt. Eric Jackson with DeKalb County Fire also called the road failure a "once in a lifetime experience." He said Atlanta Gas Light crews were working on filing an abandoned gas pipe running under I-20 between Candler and Gresham Monday morning. He said it wasn't a gas explosion, but air and concrete pressure eventually broke through the road surface. 

When the pressure broke through the surface, the road was ripped apart, sections of concrete pushed into the air.

A motorcycle and car traveling along I-20 hit that section of road and went airborne. The motorcyclist landed about 200 feet from the road failure and was transported to the hospital in critical condition. The car traveled about 15 feet before landing back on the ground. Amazingly, that driver was not injured. 

Laura Creekmur, a spokesperson for Atlanta Gas Light, said they are aware of the situation and currently investigating.  She stressed that the incident was not natural gas related.

All lanes were closed while crews assessed the damage, GDOT said.

GDOT spokesperson Natalie Dale said in a Monday afternoon news conference that  crews were expected to begin removing concrete and material below the area that buckled.

"It is unknown how deep we will have to go to excavate which will be the biggest hurdle to how quickly we can get this section of the road put back together," Dale said.

All lanes were closed for several hours. Around 4:35 p.m., two right lanes had reopened.

Dale said that crews were checking out the lanes adjacent to the damage to make sure they were safe to re-open.

"Our goal is to make sure that we have as many lanes open as possible at 5 p.m. today," Dale said. "That may be two, that may be three."

Motorists shouldn't expect all lanes to be re-open "until at least noon [Tuesday]", Dale said.

Dale said the incident another does not indicate "widespread crumbling infrastructure," saying it was a "stroke of bad luck." She said that Atlanta has the 10th largest transportation network in the nation, and there are utilities under deep roads throughout the city. 

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11Alive Traffic Tracker Crash Clark said I-20 westbound is a major in-bound route for DeKalb County, so the morning commute will be a bigger issue than the Monday evening commute. 

Crash said Cook Road will provide some relief as an alternate, but commuters should expect major backups in the area Tuesday morning, and likely for days to come. 

According to DeKalb County officials, I-285 has been approved as the primary detour with the following alternate routes:

I-285 South/West to I-75 North
I-285 North to Glenwood Road Westbound, to I-20 Westbound
Covington Highway Westbound, to Memorial Drive Westbound, to South Howard Street Southbound, to Glenwood Road Westbound, to I-20 Westbound


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