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Jax Daily Record Friday, Dec. 29, 200612:00 PM EST

Northbank Riverwalk supports wear down

by: Max Marbut Associate Editor

by Max Marbut

Staff Writer

When the metal pilings underneath the Northbank Riverwalk were installed, John F. Kennedy was president of the United States. Not even structural steel can last forever, and after more than four decades immersed in the St. Johns River, the pilings have deteriorated.

Jacksonville’s Public Works Department conducted an evaluation of a collapsed section of the Northbank Riverwalk near the Hyatt Regency Hotel Thursday morning.

“No matter what it is, it’s not going to be fun,” said Lynn Westbrook of the Public Works Director’s Office. After a diver inspected and photographed the pilings and support beams from the river all the way to the Hyatt’s driveway, Public Works determined one of the 45-year-old pilings had failed, causing the surface of the Riverwalk to buckle and drop about eight inches.

The area above the piling has been barricaded and closed to the public. The Jacksonville Sheriff’s Office will station personnel at the site to ensure the safety of people in the area for New Year’s Eve and Gator Bowl activities.

Westbrook said the Riverwalk is basically a bridge and the structure is inspected by the Florida Department of Transportation every two years. He said the failure of one piling “gives us the inclination that others may fail. It does give us pause and tells us we’ve got to take a look.”

He added there are various options for restoring the structural integrity of the walkway. However, the repair will probably require heavy equipment to be brought in on a barge to avoid closing the street at the hotel’s main entrance.

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