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FDOT, Feds Collide Over Mathews Bridge Repair Costs

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The Florida Dept. of Transportation is seeking reimbursement from the U.S. Navy and federal subcontractors for $4.1 million in costs related to the state agency's emergency repairs to Jacksonville’s Mathews Bridge. On Sept. 26, 2013, an elevated structure located on the stern of a Naval cargo ship struck the bridge, damaging a main structural beam and shoving metal plates that support the deck out of position.

Photo courtesy FDOT
A Naval cargo ship struck Jacksonville's Mathews Bridge last September, damaging a main structural beam. According to the video included below, roughly 200 people worked to repair the bridge, which reopened 34 days after the incident.
Video courtesy RS and H
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In April, lawyers for the state transportation agency submitted a formal demand to the Dept. of the Navy for compensation from the U.S. Navy, Military Sealift Command and contractors Patriot Contract Services and Moran Towing Corp., which was moving the USNS 1st Lt Harry L. Martin cargo ship at the time of the incident.

FDOT's claim contends that inaccurate federal data about the ship and the bridge contributed to the bridge strike. It argues that though the federal government "attempted to place road blocks and otherwise impede the state’s ability to independently establish the true height of the Martin, other evidence shows that the Martin was at least 5 ft and 7 inches taller" than official records state. The state agency also contends that the federal government published inaccurate data about the bridge’s clearance.

"Under general maritime law there is a presumption of fault against a moving vessel that strikes a stationary object,” FDOT’s claim adds.

At the time of the incident, agency spokesman Michael Goldman told ENR Southeast that the damage "created a weight imbalance that, [with] further traffic and vibrations, could've caused a collapse."

In a video documentary of the repair effort, FDOT’s District 2 Construction Engineer Carrie Stanbridge states: “The major chord on the bridge that’s carrying the load is severed. The magnitude of the destruction to the steel structure is the worst I’ve ever seen."

Superior Construction, Jacksonville, began emergency repairs on Oct. 1. At the time of award, FDOT estimated the total cost for repairs at roughly $3 million. According to the legal filings, however, final project costs totaled nearly $3.6 million, with additional costs expected to bring the tally to $4.1 million.

The original value of Superior’s contract was $1.07 million. However, FDOT’s contract provided the contractor with the opportunity to earn up to $500,000 in early-completion bonuses for completing the repairs within 30 days. At the time of its legal filing, FDOT reported it paid $1.8 million to Superior.

FDOT reopened the Mathews Bridge on Oct. 29, 34 days after the incident. Mediation is scheduled for Aug. 27 in Jacksonville, according to FDOT.


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