JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Those who drove on Interstate 95 through downtown Jacksonville Monday morning likely felt the frustration of the Overland Bridge Project.
Contractors with the project reported delays in reopening of lanes on Interstate 95 northbound just south of the Fuller Warren Bridge.
According to Ron Tittle with the Florida Department of Transportation, there were delays in the work of contractors by at least an hour.
Tittle reported that concrete was poured during the weekend and into Sunday evening. All lanes were scheduled to open around 5 a.m. Monday. However, once traffic started driving over the new asphalt, there were issues.
FDOT officials said when the asphalt was spread, it didn't set properly. The lanes were shut down on I-95 to keep drivers safe, but the effect of that was people sitting in standstill traffic.
"That's part of the challenge when you're working these major projects around live traffic," Tittle said. "Yeah, we could have closed down the ramps to downtown completely during the weekend, but we wanted to help the public and get them where they needed to go. We figured through the nighttime work it was sufficient, and it would have been if we didn't have the material failure."
He said with the asphalt problems, they had to shut lanes down because driver safety is the priority.
"It's still on solid foundation. It's just that you don't want a lot of vehicles. Once the different vehicles started driving over that newly laid asphalt, then some of it started crumbling. It's not unsafe, you just can't drive over new asphalt like that," said Tittle.
Monday morning, parts of I-95 were shut shut down and traffic after Emerson shifted to the new portion of the highway on the right as work began on the southbound lanes of the Overland Bridge.
Tittle said crews had to remove some of the asphalt on the outside transition lane -- the one that didn't open -- in order to place the new asphalt.
Heavy delays were seen early Monday morning because of the shift.
“I think the best thing (is) to know before you go; I think of course those who are already commuting know the challenge there. Know the roads you may be able to travel around San Jose Boulevard. Know the different routes you can take if you're going downtown,” said Tittle
Speeds were reduced to 45 mph in some areas.
"I see that drivers drive very fast around here and it's going to be concerning just trying to move lanes. And getting over quickly, it's going to be scary. I think everyone's going to have to slow down a bit," Denise Tomley said.
Anxiety was starting to build for some about Monday's commute.
"A mess -- (the) traffic. Luckily I don't work down here. For my family and friends that do, it's going to be a mess tomorrow," Monica Albertie said.
Albertie, who was visiting San Marco for an appointment, got turned around Sunday.
"I was heading on 95 North and I saw the flashing sign that said downtown exits, and I just passed it because it wasn't clear enough. So I eventually had to drive all the way around downtown in order to be able to get into San Marco. It wasn't just me. There was a line of cars following me all the way around," Albertie said.
Tomley did the same thing. She said she hopes the project is finished soon. According to FDOT, the project consists of six phases. We are currently in the fourth phase. The fifth phase focuses on the southbound lanes and is expected to start this year.
"I'm excited being new to the city and seeing the change. Yes, it's going to be painful for a while. We had the same thing happen in Charlotte with 485. A lot of construction on that road, but at the end of the day, once it was all done and there were four lanes, it was smooth sailing, so it was good," Tomley said.
Crews were able to place another layer of asphalt Monday afternoon, allowing the closed lane to re-open Monday evening.
FDOT said it will have law enforcement officers to help with traffic control, but conditions are expected to be very different, so drivers should expect some traffic delays. Because of that, drivers should leave their houses a little earlier for the morning commute.
"We just appreciate everybody's patience with us. We've already heard some concerns," Tittle said. "We appreciate the media getting the word out and people being patient with us. It's for everyone's benefit and we're working daily for a good product -- safe and efficient, but also lessen the inconvenience along the way."