Man pleads not guilty in I-85 bridge collapse

Officials work to repair the I-85 bridge. (Image Courtesy of GDOT)Officials work to repair the I-85 bridge. (Image Courtesy of GDOT)

The man facing arson and criminal damage to property charges in the I-85 bridge collapse case in Atlanta Tuesday, April 18, pleaded not guilty.

Basil Eleby was jailed March 31 and charged in relation to the fire and subsequent bridge collapse. Police say he was under the interstate using drugs and set a fire which spread to fiber optic cables on wooden spools stored under the bridge.

According to the Associated Press, Eleby’s lawyers say officials are using him as a scapegoat and should not have been storing the construction materials under the bridge. 

An Atlanta judge released Eleby on a $10,000 bond April 18. One condition of his bail is that he must retain a substance abuse counselor. He is not to go near the bridge collapse site unless accompanied by his attorneys. His next court hearing is June 16.

Georgia DOT officials are offering $3.1 million in incentives to contractors to get I-85 reopened as early as May 21, reports Atlanta news station WSB-TV.

Last week, the department announced its “aggressive but attainable” goal of getting the interstate repaired and reopened by June 15. According to the report, GDOT expects the incentives to speed up the rebuilding and repair process.

Atlanta suffered another traffic problem Monday, April 17 when a section of I-20 westbound buckled. Officials said the buckling was caused by a natural gas leak. The site has since been repaired.