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Mathews Bridge to undergo engineering assessment

6:36 AM, Sep 27, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The Mathews Bridge is expected to undergo an engineering assessment Friday morning to determine how long it needs to be closed.

Inspectors will also be looking to get a firmer grasp on just how much the bridge is damaged.

Naval vessel USNS Lt. Harry L. Martin, a Surge Sealift Ship, hit the Mathews Bridge, causing major damage to the bridge and shutting it down indefinitely.

The USNS 1st Lt. Harry L. Martin was being tugged by four civilian tugboats when the ship struck the bridge near the center span at 2:15 p.m. Thursday, according to a United States Coast Guard press release.

The port side stern ramp impacted the Matthews bridge when it was traveling to the North Florida Ship Yard Inc., in Jacksonville, Florida, according to LCDR Corey Barker, Fleet Public Affairs Officer.

The ship was empty of cargo at the time and there are no reported injuries on the ship or the civilians tugboats.

The ship belongs to the Military Sealift Command, however it is run and managed by civilians, Barker said.

"Damage is more than thought initially which is why we are saying 'indefinitely,'" Mike Goldman says. "The boat and/or insurance company will get the bill for this repair."

Traffic is closed in both directions indefinitely, according to Mike Goldman of the Florida Department of Transportation.

Traffic is not allowed on the bridge as a safety precaution to prevent potential further damage to the structure from weight imbalances and vibrations, according to FDOT.

FDOT, the Jacksonville Sheriff's Office and the Jacksonville Fire and Rescue Department is asking the community to use alternate routes, stating the bridge unsafe for traffic.

A 200-yard maritime safety zone around the Mathews Bridge that was implemented by the U.S. Coast Guard earlier Thursday was lifted at 8:15 p.m. During the safety zone, no boat traffic of any kind was allowed on either side of the bridge.

According to USCG spokeswoman Petty Officer First Class Lauren Jorgenson, the safety zone was implemented as a precaution because the FDOT has to send out inspectors to look at the structure and make a determination.

Jorgenson said it's not terribly common for vessels to strike bridges and cause damage like this.

First Coast News will have team coverage of the incident and how it will affect your commute, especially to and from the Jaguars game on Sunday.

First Coast News

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