Scrap Mathews Bridge and build a new bridge?

Mayor, DOT say not so fast

By Jim Piggott - Reporter

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - As thousands are delayed because of the Mathews Bridge closure, the question has come up again about replacing the entire structure.

It was suggested in 2000 when the city passed the Better Jacksonville Plan, but it became too costly.

Mayor Alvin Brown spoke about the idea Friday, saying he wants to leave it up to the engineers, but right now he does not seem too keen to the idea.

Brown said he's watching the Florida Department of Transportation's inspections and repairs closely. He got a good view of the damage Thursday while he was out on a boat inspecting what happened.

"I think it's important for citizens to know that as mayor I am going to do everything I can to bring all the stakeholders together, that once the bridge is safe, secured and we can get it back underway, because 100,000 people go across the Mathews Bridge every day," Brown said.

The mayor said he has not been given a time frame on repairs.

"I know engineers and inspectors are doing their assessments," he said. "I know they want us to be patient. Basically, it takes time. But I think working with the sheriff and all the other stakeholders, I think the most important thing is to get it right."

Previous mayors like John Delaney tried to get DOT to replace the bridge when the city voted to approve a special tax in the Better Jacksonville Plan. State officials said that was OK but never followed through. Funding became the big issue, and a DOT spokesman said Friday it's not feasible.

Brown isn't pushing for it right now either.

"Before this accident, the bridge was being updated and they were taking care of it," he said. "It shuts down every day at 7 p.m. until the morning. So the experts would have to say, 'What do we need to do?'"

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