FDOT: Mathews Bridge to reopen in 40 days or less

Alternating 1-way traffic possible after 2 weeks -- if bridge is deemed safe

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - Temporary repairs for the Mathews Bridge will begin Wednesday and be completed in about a month, the Florida Department of Transportation announced Tuesday.

FDOT Secretary Ananth Prasad said Superior Construction Co. won the emergency bid for repairs at $1.07 million. The contract specifies 40 days to complete the work, but includes a $50,000 per day early completion incentive provision.  The total repair cost could reach close to $3 million, including the early completion incentive, construction management and inspection services and possible traffic management costs, officials said.

Prasad said FDOT is hopeful that one-way traffic can be allowed on the Mathews once the bridge is stabilized and deemed capable of withstanding construction equipment and vehicular traffic.  That determination will be made in about two weeks.

If FDOT finds the bridge can safely handle one-way traffic during construction, there could be an additional $500,000 in costs incurred by the removing of barrier walls, signage and other costs to accommodate reversing traffic on the westbound lanes.

If one-way traffic is allowed westbound traffic would use the bridge from 6 a.m. to 2 p.m., and eastbound traffic would be allowed on the Mathews from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.

The FDOT hopes all repairs can be finalized by Oct 30, the week of the Florida-Georgia football game.

"The FDOT is well aware of the inconveniences this accident has caused the citizens of Jacksonville," Prasad said. "It is imperative that the repairs occur as quickly as possible while being done in a way to assure the structural integrity of the bridge."

Prasad said the bridge will be stabilized with temporary repairs to allow heavy equipment on the structure so the final repairs can begin. He said the structural integrity of the Mathews is continuously being analyzed.

The bridge has been closed since Thursday afternoon, when a Navy ship under tow crashed into it.

The Coast Guard is investigating what happened.

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."

Following the accident, traffic was removed from the bridge for safety reasons as a precaution to prevent further potential damage to the structure from weight imbalances and vibrations. The bridge carries an average of 56,500 vehicles per day in both directions.

The bridge closure has caused major traffic delays in the surrounding areas.

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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