Jacksonville, FL - A gaping hole has opened in Downtown Jacksonville, and at this time it’s unclear why.
“We’re now requesting a full assessment of the Liberty Street structure, plus Coastline Drive,” says City of Jacksonville Communications Director David DeCamp.
City of Jacksonville Public Works and the Florida Department of Transportation are trying to assess the scene on South Liberty Street near East Coastline Drive, where a collapse happened early Sunday morning. Because of the large and potentially dangerous debris in the hole, however, divers have not been able to get in to the water to assess the stability of the remaining structure.
VIDEO: Liberty Street collapses
The road is on pilings over the river, so it’s technically considered a bridge- which is why FDOT is involved. FDOT Spokesman Ron Tittle says they’re making the debris demolition a priority so the inspection can begin, but there’s no clear timeline yet available. Public Works also said no timeline was yet available, instead saying just that they will be moving as quickly as possible.
Several townhomes adjacent to the collapse are out of power as a result of the incident. Because restoring power involves JEA using heavy equipment, it’s unclear when this process will move forward. Currently, the road structure is closed to heavy machinery.
This site is close to a portion of Liberty Street which opened up in 2012. The City says a contractor used equipment that was too heavy for the road, causing the collapse. Just last week, the City Council voted to pay $750,000 to fix that hole because it is an “immediate public danger”.
WOKV asked whether the 2012 collapse and remaining hole could have in any way contributed to this new collapse. We’re told it’s too early in the process to make that determination.
“Right now, there’s no correlation either way with that incident,” DeCamp says.
Initially, the FDOT said Coastline Drive had been inspected in August 2013 and Liberty Street had not been inspected at that time because of the existing deficiency and safety concerns. Since, we’ve confirmed through the City of Jacksonville and FDOT that Liberty Street was inspected in August 2013 and Coastline Drive was inspected in November 2014. Public Works says it’s standard to have bridge structures inspected once every two years.
We’ve requested further information from FDOT on what was found in these inspections, but have not yet heard back.
“If there would have been a real concern for safety and all that, they certainly would have closed it down, but part of this structure was closed to vehicular traffic, so that minimized any weight on the structure itself,” Tittle says.
The City says the 2013 inspection did not have any critical work issues listed.
“It’s an old structure,” says Public Works Chief Engineer Bill Joyce.
East Coastline Drive between Market Street and Liberty Street on the Northbank has been closed as a result of this collapse. On Monday, the City also decided to close the parking lot at that corner which is mainly used by City employees. I’m told that determination was made out of an abundance of caution because inspectors can’t yet assess the structure. City employees who traditionally use that lot will now be parking at the Yates garage.