Repairs will cost somewhere in the millions, but probably less than $10 million. The bill will go to the insurance company of whoever is determined to be liable.
By Larry Hannan
Standing at the top of a Mathews Bridge devoid of motor vehicles, Florida Department of Transportation bridge maintenance officer Will Watts summed up the damage he was looking at.
“This is as severe as it can get without a bridge collapse,” Watts said. “Right now it’s in such a state that we can’t even put service vehicles up here.”
The Mathews Bridge, which averages 56,000 motorists a day, shut down indefinitely Thursday afternoon after a cargo ship being towed slammed into it. Since then the state has been conducting a damage assessment on the bridge.
Transportation spokesman Mike Goldman said the people doing the assessment would spend all weekend examining what they found and would likely release the information to the public Monday.
Based on what he’d seen so far, Watts estimated repairs would cost somewhere in the millions, but probably less than $10 million. He hopes to have the repairs done within a month.
Goldman said the bill will go to the insurance company of whoever is determined to be liable.
“The positive to all of this is most of the damage is localized,” Watts said.
Transportation engineers and inspectors worked much of Thursday night into early Friday examining the bridge until forced to quit by darkness. When they resumed the inspection Friday morning, they were joined by a team of bridge climbers looking at the structure from top to bottom.
The state is going to get an emergency contract as soon as the assessment is done and a plan is developed to repair it, Goldman said.
The damage is all at the high point of the bridge over the middle of the St. Johns River.
But Watts said a beam is so badly damaged that it will have to be replaced.
“That’s going to be a very challenging repair to make,” he said.
Watts said temporary repairs will come first so that service vehicles can go to the top of the bridge. Those repairs will likely be handled from boats. He didn’t know if some lanes could be opened at that point.
State Rep. Lake Ray said a town hall meeting is being planned so residents can ask questions about how the bridge repair will work.
Larry Hannan: (904) 359-4470
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