Bridge fix could take weeks, cost millions

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - The Florida Department of Transportation says the Mathews Bridge will remain closed for several weeks to repair damage a Navy ship caused last week.

FDOT now estimates it could take weeks and about $3 million to fix.

Meanwhile, the U.S. Coast Guard is still investigating exactly what happened.

"We currently have investigators out working right now to determine what the cause of this accident was and what we can do to prevent similar accidents like this from happening in the future," PFC Lauren Jorgensen said. "For incidents like this one, our investigators will interview the crew to determine who was involved in the incident. Who was directly involved? There's drug and alcohol testing that's done, which is standard procedure anytime there is an accident with a commercial vessel."

AUDIO: Motorists' calls to 911Coast Guard's initial reports of bridge collision

The 911 calls from the bridge crash were released Monday.

"There's a ship underneath the bridge and it has hit the bridge, it has damaged the bridge," one 911 caller said. "There's still people driving on it. We work underneath it. We sat here and watched it. It damaged the girders pretty bad."

Officials said the ship disconnected a steel beam upon impact.

"An inbound ship just hit the under side of the bridge 30 seconds ago," another 911 caller said. "It looks like it's going towards the North Florida Shipyard, and I saw some stuff hanging from the bridge. I see traffic is still moving both ways. A big ramp is sticking up off top of the ship and it bashed the under side of the bridge. All kinds of debris came off."

Jorgenson said investigators will also check to see if the ship had a malfunction. It's an investigation that could take anywhere from six months to a year.

As for traffic delays, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office advises commuters to take the Hart or Main Street bridges into downtown.

Officers will be at intersections around Atlantic and Beach boulevards during morning and evening rush hours to manage traffic flow.

"It's bottlenecking. We know everybody is upset and we know people's patience get lost when they are driving, but we are asking people to please be patient, and we will get through this together," JSO spokeswoman Melissa Bujeda said.

JSO said it will also be asking businesses to allow their employees to alter their work schedules to cut down on traffic.

DOT is expected to have an update on the assessment of the bridge on Tuesday.

State Rep. Lake Ray will host a town hall meeting from 6-8 p.m. Tuesday to discuss concerns regarding bridge repairs.

City Council Vice President Clay Yarborough and DOT officials will also be in attendance to answer questions from the public.

The meeting will be held at the Nathan H. Wilson Center on the Florida State College at Jacksonville South Campus at 11901 Beach Blvd.

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