FDOT divers inspect Hart Bridge

It’s part of a routine inspection of the iconic bridge in Jacksonville

DOT workers inspect bridges for safety
DOT workers inspect bridges for safety

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Divers with the Florida Department of Transportation on Monday inspected the underwater components of the Hart Bridge.

It was part of a routine inspection of the decadesold bridge.

“It’s an iconic piece of infrastructure for our city, and we want to make sure the bridge is around a really long time,” said FDOT spokesperson Hampton Ray.

FDOT inspects the bridge every two years from top to bottom to make sure it remains in good condition.

“These are specialized engineers,” Ray explained. “It is their whole job to look at the nooks and crannies of the infrastructure.”

On Monday, crews focused on the structure underwater.

“We have folks that are going to be in the water to look at the piers that actually sit into the mud and making sure we get that,” Ray said. “It’s got to be reviewed within 2 feet from the eye, so this is an intense physical for the bridge.”

One diver at a time went into the murky St. Johns River to inspect the bridge. They went 30 feet down to inspect the concrete and steel that have been in place since the bridge opened 53 years ago. A lot of the inspection is done by hand because the water is brackish with the mix of salt and fresh water in the St. Johns. If they feel something odd, they will return to do a more thorough inspection later.

David Heuschael, FDOT’s chief underwater bridge inspector who handles this area of North Florida, said they are looking for a number of things. Heuschael said that “just over time, deterioration of the concrete” is one of the main concerns.

Plus, they looked to see whether any boats have hit the bridge and caused any damage underneath.

Crews continue inspection of Hart Bridge
Crews continue inspection of Hart Bridge

FDOT crews also used an underwater drone. Its primary purpose is to make sure the area is safe for divers. Since it’s hard to see through the brackish water, it gives a clue to the people on the surface what divers will encounter.

Over the weekend, engineers focused on the deck of the bridge.

“Rest assured that this is what we do,” said Ross Hammock, district structures maintenance engineer with FDOT. “We do it every two years as a routine inspection to make sure that the bridge stays safe and that people can travel over it safely. If anything was found we would make repairs, whether minor, hopefully not severe, but if something severe happens, we would shut it down and make that repair and would not open it back up until it was safe.”

As of Monday, the inspection had not uncovered any problems, News4Jax was told.

According to engineers, the inspection will continue next week and can take up to four weeks. FDOT will inspect the overhead truss, which consists of the steel, green beams that cross the bridge, which is somewhat affectionately known as the Green Monster to those who run across it during the annual Gate River Run.

During the inspection, according to FDOT, the bridge is safe to travel on.

Hart Bridge Inspection
Hart Bridge Inspection

Nearly two weeks ago, part of the Buckman Bridge was shut down, causing a traffic nightmare during rush hour. The problem was a joint in the bridge that separated. It was fixed and a permanent repair will take place at a later time.

FDOT wants people to see how it’s inspecting other bridges in Jacksonville to make sure they are safe. Reporters were allowed to go with crews on Monday as they went under the Hart Bridge. News4Jax will also be allowed to go along with crews again next week as they inspect the overhead truss.

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