Railway bridge over St. Johns River stuck in down position

Marine businesses say they're losing thousands because of malfunction

By Francesca Amiker - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Florida East Coast Railway bridge across the St. Johns River has been stuck in the down position for almost a week, and it's affecting boat traffic and marine business.

Many local fishermen have been unable to reach the other side of the bridge, and they said it's costing them thousands.

"This time of the year is when the shrimp are falling out of the river, and if you're not shrimping this time of the year, you're not going to make any money," Lutgens said.

The railroad bridge near the Acosta Bridge has been down since last Wednesday.

A spokesperson for FEC Railway said the issue is a mechanical problem with a gear on the track that is preventing the bridge from being raised. The spokesperson said crews are working on the problem and should be finished by Friday.

Rail service has not been affected, but marine services have.

David Lutgens, a commercial fisherman who relies on traveling under the bridge every day to gather shrimp for his business, said his boat won't fit with the bridge down.

"There's a big pile of shrimp right now falling out of the river. They're catching them. They're thick, but we can't get to them, so we can't fish," Lutgens said. "These two weeks I'd say has cost me probably $20,000."

Brooks Busey, owner of Sadler Point Marina, said he's had to turn away business because of the bridge issue.

"The west side of Jacksonville, the Ortega River, is home to hundreds of hundreds of recreational boats," Busey said. "When they want to go somewhere, a large portion of the boating happens on the other side of downtown, so when that bridge is out of commission, it's a huge problem for recreational boating."

Busey said not only has he seen problems with commercial fishermen getting under the bridge, but Fire and Rescue boats, too. He said it's time for a permanent fix.

"Until they make an effort to modernize that bridge, we'll continue to have problems with it," Brooks said. "That's what boaters are finding most frustrating."

Lutgens said the timing could not have been much worse.

"You make a living all year long, but you really look forward to those real good weeks, and those real good weeks are right now," Lutgens said. "You don't know how long they're going to last. They could be two-three weeks, maybe longer, you never know. But these weeks, you got to be there and everybody who is on the other side is doing it. We're one of the top producing boats out there, and we can't even do it, so it's very frustrating." 

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