Finish line: Mathews Bridge repairs could be completed by summer
Renovations on the Mathews Bridge could be completed by contractors this summer, earlier than estimated and soon after the span's 60th anniversary of carrying traffic across the St. Johns River from Downtown to Arlington.
"They have until 2014, but there are indications that it could be done this summer," said Florida Department of Transportation spokesman Mike Goldman.
The Mathews Bridge opened to traffic April 15, 1953, and cost $11 million to build. The $22.7 million repair and repainting project began in September 2011.
The 1.4-mile, four-lane bridge carries about 67,000 vehicles a day in both directions.
The project includes cleaning and repainting structural steel surfaces.
Goldman said 85 percent of the work is completed and the summer estimate is contingent on the weather "and if they discover any unforeseen field conditions."
Goldman said it also is to the contractor's advantage to finish early.
He said the biggest advantage is potential cost savings after the work is done through the elimination of overhead such as labor and equipment costs, office rentals, insurance, bonding and related items.
Goldman said there were no financial incentives from the state to complete the job early.
"And we're happy with the work, too," he said. "Right now they've indicated they could be done ahead of schedule. We are just waiting and seeing. But they are making good progress."
Meanwhile the state Department of Transportation expects to open bids in September for an estimated $3.4 million project to make repairs to the Mathews Bridge fender system, which is at the water level.
Goldman said the fender system is the crash barrier system to protect the bridge against ship impacts. He said such projects do not affect vehicular traffic or require lane closings. While shipping traffic will not be restricted, Goldman said water traffic will need to use caution.
According to an application with the St. Johns River Water Management District, the bridge rehabilitation project for the fender work includes repairs such as removing and replacing the existing fender system, catwalks, navigational and channel lights; removing and replacing access ladders for two piers from the catwalk to the pier; replacing all timber piling with concrete piles; and more.
It said construction could start in 2014 and take about a year.
The department said it was submitting an application for the fender project to the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for review.
"Barge-mounted construction equipment will be utilized," the application said. "Appropriate turbidity controls will be installed and utilized."
Turbidity is the stirring up of sediment.
The main bridge structure renovations began in the fall of 2011.
As the Daily Record reported Sept. 22, 2011, construction was expected to last until the summer of 2014. The "asterisked" completion date is Feb. 18, 2014, with weather and holidays having been expected to extend that.
Full bridge closures along with single and directional lane closings have been taking place nights and weekends, planned to not affect rush-hour commuters. Directional closings mean that both lanes in the same direction are closed to traffic while lanes in the opposite direction are open.
The department said the bridge and lane closures have been necessary to safely repaint and repair the bridge.
The contract specified 720 days to complete the project and allowed extra time for weather delays, holidays, special events and unforeseen construction circumstances, said the department.
More than 7,000 tons of structural steel are being cleaned and repainted. The color of the bridge remains the same and the new paint should last 15 to 20 years.
The time period for repairs could be extended through periodic cleanings and paint touch-up projects when needed.
The project includes structural steel repairs, corrosion protection, new ladders, platforms and railings and rehabilitating the joints that allow bridge segments to expand and contract.
According to the department, the bridge has been covered with containment systems to protect motorists, property owners and boaters.
No construction work is performed during special events unless approved by the department. Those events include The Players Championship; the Florida-Georgia football game; Jacksonville Jaguars home football games; the Greater Jacksonville Agricultural Fair; the Gator Bowl game; the Greater Jacksonville Kingfish Tournament (Monday through Friday); the Advance Auto Parts Monster Jam; the Monster Energy AMA Supercross; the Gate River Run; the 26.2 with Donna National Marathon to Finish Breast Cancer; and the opening weekend at the Jacksonville Beaches.
No construction work is performed during some holidays. Those are Martin Luther King Jr. Day; Memorial Day, including the Saturday and Sunday immediately preceding it; Independence Day; Labor Day, including the Friday, Saturday and Sunday immediately preceding it; Veterans Day; Thanksgiving Day, including the Wednesday preceding it and the Friday, Saturday and Sunday immediately following it; Dec. 24 through Jan. 2.
Intech Contracting LLC of Lexington, Ky., is the project contractor. The Jacksonville office of Greenman-Pedersen Inc. is providing contract management and construction inspection services for the Florida Department of Transportation. PB Americas Inc. of Tampa performed design services.
The bridge is 7,736 feet long and 58 feet wide. The vertical clearance — the point from the bottom of the bridge to the mean sea level mark — is 149.5 feet.
The bridge was last fully repainted in 1982. It had paint touch-up work in 1995, 2002 and 2007. Steel grating on the bridge was replaced with a concrete riding surface in 2007 at a cost of $12.9 million.