Downtown construction project begins

FDOT hosting two open house meetings to address questions, concerns

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A three-year, multimillion dollar project on a stretch of Interstate 95 north near downtown Jacksonville is under way this week.

It's called the Overland Bridge Project and it goes over the St. Nicholas and San Marco areas.

The Florida Department of Transportation said it shouldn't slow down commutes to work or school, but it's affecting businesses and people who live nearby.

FDOT held an open house Wednesday and will have another one Thursday for people with questions.

"They want to know what it will look like, impact to them, most, drainage issues," said FDOT's Gina Busscher. 

The department said each meeting will be an informal, drop-in type deal for anyone who wants information on the construction project.

The work will take three and a half years, and will affect a lot of people who take I-95 north and people who work and live near the Overland Bridge in San Marco and St. Nicholas.

Charles Kearns, who lives just a stones throw away on South Hampton, attended the open house Wednesday night.

"I'm worried about my property value. They'll be doing this construction all at night. The noise factor, we'll be 75 feet way from all the building," said Kearns.

Kearns said he feels like big government is trampling on him and his family. He had lot of questions for the contractors who will actually be doing the job.

Others came to meeting to learn how construction will effect bike lanes and their everyday commute.

"As a business person, I like to know what's going on with our tax dollars, traffic being disrupted," said Tracy Winfree.  

Carl McCall has lived on Southampton Road for 28 years, just down the street from the Channel 4 studios.

His front porch view is empty lots where houses used to be but were demolished by the state for the Overland Bridge Project.

He also sees the east side of the bridge wall, which will soon be extended out to the road.

"The people who moved, they were well compensated," McCall said. "The ones who are left here are, well, we didn't make out as well."

The $227 million project will replace several overpasses that carry traffic over Hendricks, Kings and Montana Avenues along 2.3 miles of I-95 near downtown.

"I understand its a quarter of a billion dollar project, and we want to know what we are getting for our money," said Winfree.  

The FDOT said the project is about safety. Last August, a part of the bridge washed out after a storm, something that regularly started to happen.

"This has been what we call a structurally deficient bridge, meaning right now it's safe, but whether or not we could say that five or 10 years from now is debatable," FDOT spokesman Mike Goldman said.

The construction will also add another southbound lane, and an exit to Philips Highway and Atlantic Boulevard will be added on I-95 northbound.

"From 10 p.m. to 6 a.m., so this is not going to affect your commute to work," Goldman said. "Getting your kids to school, other daytime activities."

McCall is still getting over the fact that the value of his house has tanked because of this project.

As construction begins, he has more immediate concerns.

"Rumor has it that they're going to be doing a lot of it at night," McCall said. "It makes it a whole lot of fun to try and sleep while you got a jack hammer going all night, so that may be more and more of an inconvenience."

The second and last open house will take place from 4 to 6 p.m. Thursday at the FDOT training facility off I-10 and Stockton Street, the same venue used Wednesday night.

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