Officials urge patience with repeated Main Street Bridge closures

Repairs must be made to iconic bridge, despite headaches, officials say

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Drivers traveling downtown this weekend who typically take the Main Street Bridge will have to find another way across the St. Johns River -- again.

The latest construction project on the bridge has been going on for about two years, often causing weekend closures of the bridge that last from Friday evenings to Sunday mornings.

The Main Street Bridge, one of the oldest and most recognizable landmarks in Jacksonville, will be closed from 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 16, to 6 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 18.

After this weekend, the bridge closures will follow the schedule below as crews make improvements to the mechanical, electrical and structural systems:

6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 19, to 6 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20
6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 20, to 6 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21
9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 21, to 6 a.m. Thursday, Feb. 22
6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 22, to 6 a.m. Friday, Feb. 23
6:30 p.m. Monday, Feb. 26, to 6 a.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27
6:30 p.m. Tuesday, Feb. 27, to 6 a.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28
9 p.m. Wednesday, Feb. 28, to 6 a.m. Thursday, March 1
6:30 p.m. Thursday, March 1, to 6 a.m. Friday, March 2

During closures, both pedestrians and drivers will be detoured to the Acosta Bridge. Signs will be in place to direct traffic through the detour. Boaters will not be affected by the closures.

The $10.7 million project is expected to be completed this spring, but many viewers have asked News4Jax why it's taking so long.

The bridge, which is officially named the John T. Alsop Jr. Bridge after the city's longest-serving mayor, was built in the late 1930s, opening to traffic in 1941.

IMAGES: Main Street Bridge: Then and Now

It currently stands true to its original form with a vertical lift bridge, making rehab work more complex than other bridges.

The bolts were heated and put into place, which made the structure rock-solid, according to officials with the Florida Department of Transportation, but it's a technique that isn't used anymore.

In 2016, the department started a nearly $11 million construction project that will replace mechanical and electrical components, install new traffic and sidewalk gates and add new lighting and traffic cameras.

To do the work, a temporary platform has been constructed, and every time there's high winds or severe weather, it has to be taken down and rebuilt. 

A temporary electrical system has been put in place to keep the bridge working and traffic moving during peak hours. With a temporary system, the lift is moving at half-speed, which keeps drivers waiting an extra two to three minutes every time it goes up for a passing boat.

Drivers often complain about the bridge closures and construction, but officials said there really isn't another option, because it would be too expensive and time-consuming to buy land and build a new bridge in its place. 

Not to mention the bridge's iconic link to the city that make it all but irreplaceable.

FDOT officials said the Main Street Bridge still has a lot of life left, but to make sure it's used to its fullest potential, drivers will have to be patient a little bit longer.