Bridge repairs to start today
Repairs to the Mathews Bridge caused when a cargo ship being towed ran into the structure are scheduled to begin today.
Officials anticipate limited traffic will be allowed to cross the bridge in two weeks.
Florida Department of Transportation Secretary Ananth Prasad said Tuesday Superior Construction Co. of Jacksonville submitted the low bid of $1.07 million for an emergency contract to complete the repairs.
The contract specifies 40 days to complete the work. A $50,000 per day early-completion incentive provision to finish the work in 30 days is part of the contract. 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.
"The FDOT is well aware of the inconveniences this accident has caused the citizens of Jacksonville. 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," said Prasad.
After the accident, traffic was suspended on 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.
Prasad said FDOT is hopeful that one-way traffic can be allowed on the Mathews once the bridge can withstand construction equipment and vehicular traffic.
When the bridge is stabilized, westbound traffic would use the bridge from 6 a.m.-2 p.m., and eastbound traffic would be allowed on the bridge in the evenings from 3-7 p.m.
The damage occured Sept. 26 when the U.S. Navy cargo ship 1st Lt. Harvey L. Martin was being towed under the bridge and crashed into the span.
The vessel being moved to North Florida Shipyards by Moran Towing Corp. isn't the first time Moran Towing has been involved in a mishap between vessel under its control and a bridge.
The company is the defendant in a lawsuit filed Sept. 9 by the City of Chesapeake in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Virginia.
The plaintiff contends that on Nov. 14, 2008, the tugboat Lorette Moran, owned by Moran Towing Corp., was pushing a loaded hopper barge on the southern branch of the Elizabeth River when the barge struck the protective fenders for the Gilmerton Bridge, destroying a portion of the fender system.
The complaint notes that "the striking of a stationary object by a moving vessel gives rise in admiralty law to a presumption of fault on the vessel's operator."
The suit alleges that the operator failed to keep the tugboat under control so as to prevent the barge from striking the fendering system and the bridge; did not keep and maintain an alert and efficient lookout; failed to properly measure the distance between the barge and the bridge during approach; failed to factor the effects of the tides, currents and/or winds; approached the bridge at an excessive rate of speed under the circumstances; and failed to take timely or effective steps to avoid striking the fendering system and bridge when the danger and risk of such excessive speed was or should have been apparent.
The lawsuit asks the court to award more than $270,000 in damages.