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FDOT on Mathews Bridge, 'We're taking it a day at a time'

8:43 PM, Sep 27, 2013   |    comments
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JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- The day after a 51-thousand ton vessel hit the center span of the Mathews Bridge, Florida Department of Transportation engineers were assessing the damage.

"We're fortunate," said Will Watts, "we were close to a collapse." 

Watts is a bridge management systems engineer in FDOT's district two office. Watts lead a leading the team of engineers, climbers and surveyors inspecting the structure.

"We want to make a complete assessment," said Watts. "We will have to stabilize it before we can begin work."

State Representative Lake Ray had a chance to look at the damage. The bridge is in his district, he is also an engineer by profession.

"It is a lot of damage," said Ray. "My guess is it will take six weeks to repair, before it is back open."

Ray would like the DOT to open the west bound lane to one way traffic; the traffic would flow West in the morning and East in the evenings.

"I would like to see some traffic pattern like that to help ease the congestion," said Ray.

Watts said they are looking at all options, but the main focus now is completing the assessment and working on a corrective action plan.

"We will be working on this all weekend," he said.

Then they will go to an emergency bid to hire a contractor to repair the structure, they will have to replace the steel member or lower chord.

There is damage to the utilities and the affected companies have been notified.

As for the investigation into accident the Captain of Ports said it is moving along.

U.S. Coast Guard Captain Tom Allan is leading the investigation.

"The alcohol test results are back and they're negative," said Allan. "We are waiting on the drug tests results."

He said they have also began interviewing the crew of the USNS 1st Lt. Harry L. Martin.

"The vessel has a great history of safety and service," said Allan. "But we need to know what happened here."

The cost to restore the Mathews will run in the millions.

"I would say the cost is in the millions, single digits. " said Watts. 

First Coast News

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