Traffic headaches linger from Mathews Bridge closure

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Traffic has been and will continue to be a headache for drivers with the Mathews Bridge closed after being hit by a ship.

The busiest intersection is Atlantic and University boulevards. That's making for a rough for drivers heading that way, and it's also a pain for those who live in the area.

"I live right in a subdivision over here, and it actually took me 15 minutes to get out of Robbins Circle South to the light here, and that was with two police officers operating," driver John Hopke said.

There have been officers all along Atlantic Boulevard at each traffic light between the bridge and University Boulevard controlling the lights.

Closer to the Hart Bridge, the planning has paid off, with a much smoother ride. But some drivers have struggled before getting to that point.

"It was rough," James Clark said. "I was late this morning trying to get to work, not expecting traffic."

Clark decided to take Atlantic, a route he doesn't normally take.

"Usually I come up the Mathews and go through downtown, but I had to take another route and go around town because traffic was backed up everywhere, anywhere you go," Clark said.

Police worked to get the word out to everyone about the bridge being shut down, but not everyone got the notice.

"Actually, I didn't even know. I thought it was going to be open," one woman said. "Because mostly they close it around 7 o'clock at night, so I thought it was going to be open this morning."

But the bridge is closed indefinitely, and drivers are already thinking about how to tackle it the next go around.

"I will be taking the same route I did this morning, which was a little bit rougher," Hopke said. "It took about 20 minutes extra, 30 minutes extra than what it usually does."

Police say drivers should exercise patience when they're out navigating their routes.

JSO offers advice on alternative routes for Jaguars fans

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office says it has a contingency plan for those heading to Sunday's Jaguars game with the Mathews Bridge closed.

Police are asking fans who normally take the Hart Bridge to the stadium to take the Main Street Bridge instead, and those who normally take Mathews Bridge to take the Hart Bridge instead.

Police also say fans should come 30 minutes earlier than normal to get to the game on time.

The Sheriff's Office said it has increased staff at detour points. It said 55,000 fans are expected to attend the game, which starts at 1 p.m.

Post game routes will be similar to normal, police said.

There will be increased JSO staffing during rush hour working lights in the morning and evening.

The Mathews Bridge is closed on weekends anyway for current work it's undergoing, but it generally stays open during special events.

A JSO special events staff take will over Sunday in dealing with traffic. There will be no difference Saturday.

JSO is also urging people to use Jacksonville Transportation Authority buses, which cost $7, or the water taxi, which is $5 each way, to get to the game if possible. Both drop fans off at the sports complex within a short walking distance to the gate.

The Jaguars don't foresee any problems.

"A lot of fans come early to tailgate and they will still be able to do that as well," said Dan Edwards, Jaguars director of communications. "We are just encouraging other fans to come a little early as well."