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UPDATE: GDOT clears I-20 for traffic after vehicle strikes Emory Street overpass in Covington
Bridge damaged
Inspectors check damage from a vehicle strike on a beam and concrete beneath the Emory Street bridge over I-20 in Covington Saturday. - photo by Georgia Department of Transportation

COVINGTON, Ga. — GDOT officials will monitor damage done to the Emory Street bridge over I-20 after they deemed it safe for motorists on both highways after an unknown vehicle struck and damaged the structure Saturday morning, a spokesman said.

All areas above and below the two highways, I-20 and Hwy. 81, were inspected after the bridge's beam and concrete diaphragm were damaged over the far right lane on westbound I-20 Saturday around 10 a.m., said GDOT spokesman Kyle Collins. 

"GDOT closed off the lane Saturday afternoon preparing for the platform truck arrival which allowed bridge crews to further examine the damage," Collins said Sunday. "We were able to remove the large cracked section yesterday evening."

GDOT reported on its Facebook page the interstate and overpass were "deemed safe for travelers" Saturday about 6:20 p.m..

"I-20 lanes are all open here. Our team will come back after Thanksgiving to remove another small concrete section in the same area deemed no immediate risk to safety," Collins said. 

He said GDOT will develop a contract job for heat straightening of the beam and to fix the concrete diaphragm, Collins said.

"This beam straightening is a specialized process. It may take some time to get that contract out for bids and awarded. We will continue to monitor the site until that time."  

Collins said the same individual also hit the Old Oxford Road bridge westbound and a bridge-mounted guide sign fell. 

"We looked at that one, too. No structural damage," he reported Saturday.

Speculation on social media was a truck with an oversized load may have caused the damage but there were no immediate reports of the vehicle being identified or arrests from local police or Georgia State Patrol.

Capt. Ken Malcom of the Covington Police Department said his agency responded to the incident and asked GDOT to inspect the bridge for safety. 

The incident was the latest in a series of bridge hazards reported both locally and in Georgia in recent months.

The Access Road bridge in western Newton County collapsed Oct. 19 as contractors worked to dismantle it for future replacement. One worker was killed and two others seriously injured. 

Work on the bridge replacement has been halted since the collapse as federal investigators look into safety measures taken before the incident.

In addition, an Alabama truck driver blamed the back of his dump truck being raised on an equipment malfunction before it struck the Georgia Hwy. 86 overpass over I-16 in Treutlen County in July. 

The collision east of Macon shoved parts of the bridge back several feet. It did not cause any injuries but forced authorities to close heavily traveled I-16 in both directions for two days to demolish the structure.

Collins said there is no federal vehicle height requirement for commercial motor vehicles in the U.S. States may set their own height restrictions and in Georgia the height limit is 13 feet, 6 inches, he said.

"For interstate highways, a minimum clearance (distance from the bottom of the bridge to the roadway) must be met. Standards for interstate highways in the U.S. are defined by AASHTO, which sets the minimum vertical clearance under overhead structures, like bridges, at 16 feet," he said.

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