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Inspections begin in Coastline Drive repairs

DOT divers were in the water checking for deterioration

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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – It's been five months since a portion of Liberty Street collapsed into the St. Johns River, leaving the parking lot and walkway behind the old courthouse located there closed to the public

It's the second collapse on the street and neither collapse has yet to be fixed and now, parts of Coastline Drive are seeing some weight limit restrictions and lane closures.

The Florida Department of Transportation was out at the street Monday inspecting the area underneath coastline drive.

FDOT can't get too specific with details because they said it's a matter of security, but they had dive teams in the water checking out the structural integrity of this area Monday and began putting up yellow barriers letting people know about lane closures on the street.

The inspection was scheduled for August but moved up at the request of the city of Jacksonville.

Florida Department of Transportation spokesman Ron Tittle says those teams are looking for any abnormalities and to see if anything has drastically changed, in terms of safety, since their last check in February.

"They'll take and compare their notes back in Feb. They'll have their notes, what they'll look at right now, they'll have their lights and feel as well, because it depends on how much they can see visually. They'll take images, they've already seen images that was given to them, on what to look for, SO they were going down and looking at the different structures."

FDOT estimates it will take about a month to get results and determine if additional closures are needed. While Coastline Drive was closed between Liberty and Market streets following the collapse of two spans on the adjacent Liberty Street Bridge on Feb. 1, the section of Coastline Drive in front of the Hyatt Regency hotel remains open to one-way traffic of vehicles under 3 tons.

Highway offices estimate repairing Coastline Drive from Newnan to Market Streets -- which is actually a bridge over the St. Johns River -- would cost $12.5 million. Repairing the Liberty Street Bridge would cost $8.8 million. Replacing the intersection of Coastline Drive and Newnan Street would cost $1.1 million.

The total project, costing more than $22 million, could start as soon as October and take two years to complete.

Though money is a factor, Tittle said that the real concern is safety.

"We want to make sure we've got safe places for people to be, plain and simple, and when our inspector sees something that's an increasing deterioration, a big change maybe from previous inspections than that's when they issue the cautions and it's up to the property owner, in this case the city, to make a determination of what needs to be done," Tittle said.