The Florida Department of Transportation announced Friday that the Mathews Bridge will reopen Tuesday evening -- meeting the goal of reopening the span before Florida-Georgia weekend.
The span has been closed since a Navy cargo ship under tow struck the bridge on Sept. 26, shearing several bolts and dislodging a support beam.
FDOT had asked its staff and contractors to work and plan aggressively to open the bridge ahead of schedule.The contract specified a 40-day deadline, but provided a $50,000-a-day incentive for opening the bridge early.
"I appreciate the hard work of our FDOT personnel and contractors in working around the clock to return the bridge back to normal," FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad said in a statement. "I understand the economic impact experienced by Jacksonville commuters and local businesses when the Mathews Bridge is closed. I also know the Florida/Georgia game is one of Jacksonville’s largest yearly attractions injecting millions of dollars into the local economy."
At a news conference Friday morning, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, along with the city of Jacksonville addressed traffic patterns, saying they were planning for the bridge to be open, but they had a backup plan in place for game day.
Dozens of RVs are already lined up ready for game week. JSO said it's ready, too.
"We initiate our planning in June for this game," Assistant Chief Leonard Propper said.
JSO said it was meeting with FDOT every day, but had not been told Friday morning that the bridge would reopen in time.
JSO will place signs downtown indicating what routes to take. But whether the bridge is open or not, JSO suggests getting to the stadium five hours early to be on time for kick off.
"Most people have to cross the street to get into the stadium, so we allow the pedestrians to have the priority at 1:30 (p.m.)," Propper said.
Police say the best bet is to take the bus, Skyway or water taxi to get to the stadium on time.