Remarks Prepared for Delivery by U.S. Secretary of Transportation Elaine L. Chao For Ceremonial Opening of Atlanta’s I-85 Bridge

May 18, 2017

Thank you, Governor Deal and Commissioner McMurry.

I am so pleased to be here with you today, to celebrate the ceremonial opening of this new bridge and the men and women who made it possible.

This is a historic day for Atlanta!  It is not easy to build a bridge, let alone one this important. But doing it in less than seven weeks is a marvel of dedication, engineering and teamwork.

It began with the first responders, who rushed to the scene on March 30th, stopping traffic, putting out the fire, and getting people out of harm’s way.  If you’ve watched the news footage, the bridge that once stood here collapsed less than an hour after traffic was stopped.  The quick thinking of these local heroes prevented a terrible tragedy and not only saved lives, but ensured no one was injured.

I was so pleased to be able to accompany representatives of Atlanta’s police and fire departments and the Georgia State Patrol when they visited the President on April 13th.  It was an honor to showcase, and personally thank, all the wonderful men and women who put themselves on the line every day to keep us safe.  There is no higher calling.

Let me also commend Governor Deal for his leadership. His practice of pre-positioning state troopers along I-85 was critical to saving lives and preventing injury. Considering the bridge collapsed during heavy rush hour traffic, this strategy was critical to averting tragedy.

Commissioner McMurry also deserves our thanks for lending critical expertise, as well as the workers and skilled tradesmen and women who built the new bridge so quickly. Demolishing an old bridge, hauling away the debris and building a new one in less than seven weeks is a milestone!

And finally, let me recognize Butch Waidelich– Executive Director of the Federal Highway Administration—and Jim Ray, Senior Advisor to the Secretary for Infrastructure, and the dedicated professionals from the U.S. Department of Transportation team who were on site within an hour of the event. Thanks to their hard work, we were able to deliver $10 million in emergency relief within 12 hours of the bridge collapse.  They expedited the federal review process, and assisted the Georgia DOT in identifying the critical materials and suppliers needed to get reconstruction underway as soon as possible.

Rebuilding this bridge was a tremendous team effort.  It is a tribute to what can be accomplished when local, state and federal governments work together. So once again, congratulations on a job well done!  And thank you for inviting me to share in this joyous occasion!

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Washington, D. C. 20013
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