Robotic camera aids in Liberty Street inspection; Power restoration discusses

FDOT begins assessing collapse, will turn findings over to city


JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Inspections began Tuesday on the collapsed part of Liberty Street in downtown Jacksonville after part of the road fell into the St. Johns River last week.

The collapse even forced some people out of their homes.

The Florida Department of Transportation needed to get a closer look, so it used a robotic camera (pictured below), lowering it into the water to see if investigators could determine the cause of the collapse and the extent of the damage.

Officials said the water is so murky in the hole that they haven't been able to see much. 


"We have a subcontract team on behalf of DOT that's going in," FDOT spokesman Ron Tittle said. "They've got a little robotic-looking submarine device with cameras on it. They're going to assess everything they can assess, get the data, give it back to our bridge department and then analyze it as quickly as possible so we can give it to the city, so they know where to go from here."

Tittle said out of an abundance of caution, more of the area was blocked off while the DOT completed its assessment. Coastline Drive, the portion of the Northbank Riverwalk near the old courthouse and the parking lot of the old courthouse remain closed.

"DOT was there today doing some below water investigation. It was dark, even though it was light. They were a little strained in what they could see but they did get some findings. They'll go back to Lake City and evaluate that and give the city a report," said Public Works Director Jim Robinson. 

There's no cost estimate yet for repairs, but city spokesman David DeCamp said engineers hope to come up with a plan soon.

"This is a complex site to deal with. We have to get though demolition and debris removal assessment before we can actually get into the hard work of cleaning the site and preparing it for the full repair," DeCamp said.

Twenty townhomes at The Riverwalk Townhomes at The Plaza have been without power for more than a week.

Now, Jacksonville City Council members are trying to find the quickest way to get the power restored back to the homes. Tuesday night, the homeowners had a chance to voice their frustration.

Although it is an extremely difficult problem to fix, due to considerable damage underground to the power cables, City Council members had strong words for the city's public works department.

"I want to know an answer to that -- how long would it take to get it done and what the impediments are. I understand there may be some legalities involved, but it's a technical problem, something that should not take all that long to get done," said City Councilman Bill Bishop.

The collapse crippled the ability to restore power to the area because heavy machinery could not make its way through, meaning workers will have to relay power cables by hand. The restoration of power could take up to 11 days, and that still may be solely from generators. 

"Get whatever needs to be handled handled" said Al Emerick, a displaced renter. "(Do it) in a fashion that will get us back to our life and will restore some confidence to people who don't want to come downtown because they think the ground's going to fall in the river." 

It has been estimated that the collapse has cost homeowners a combined $90,000-$100,000 a month to be displaced from their homes.

Much of the repairs to the damaged power lines will be the homeowners' responsibility, but they're asking the city to reimburse them for those repairs.

Homeowners are also concerned because their homes are built on a bridge-piling system as well.

"We do know that the bridge structure that was apparently compromised is a separate system. It was built at an entirely different time," said Andrew Beadoin, who represents the property owners. "We don't anticipate there will be any issues, but again, when something like this happens it makes folks worry."

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