FDOT conducts Overland Bridge project load test

Last of three tests on foundation for new lanes to be added to project

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The Florida Department of Transportation conducted a load test Wednesday evening to determine the foundation's ability to support the planned lane additions to the Overland Bridge project currently under construction downtown.

FDOT spokesman Ron Tittle said Wednesday's test was the last of three tests to make sure the bridge and the new lanes being built south of the Fuller Warren Bridge can support whatever weight is on them.

"(The additional lanes are) going to be able to add capacity to be able to move the traffic through more efficiently," Tittle said. "To do that you want to make sure you have a sound structure."

Officials notified the public who might be affected by the single-noise test that lasted about two seconds.

A similar test was conducted last week, but the public was unaware of it and many frightened people called police reporting an explosion.

Wednesday's test utilized 2,000 tons of pressure, which is twice as much pressure as would normally be applied. The load test used a propellant inside a cylinder that was fired off with an electrical charge. Tittle compared it to the internal combustion engine of a car.

The time of testing, which briefly halted traffic in the area, was coordinated to adhere to noise restrictions and to have minimal impact on nearby hospitals and businesses.

The test was delayed about an hour Wednesday from its originally scheduled time because of an emergency eye surgery at a nearby hospital. Officials wanted to make sure the vibrations from the test didn't interfere with surgeons using delicate instruments.

The goal behind the Overland Bridge project, which began in August 2012 and is expected to be completed in summer 2015, is to improve safety in the area going from San Marco over the St. Johns River into Riverside. It can be difficult and dangerous to cross multiple lanes of traffic and there have been several crashes in the area.

Tittle said in the future the project will also add a bicycle lane and a pedestrian walkway from San Marco to Riverside.

If the foundation passed the final test, crews will begin completing the additional lanes for the bridge.