Northbank roads deemed "structurally deficient" prior to collapse

When Liberty Street and Coastline Drive faced their last inspection by FDOT, both were found to be “structurally deficient”.

Now, Liberty Street has collapsed near the intersection, forcing both roads to close. The cause of the collapse is still under investigation.

GALLERY: Liberty Street collapses near Coastline Drive

The Florida Department of Transportation defines "structurally deficient" as needing a "series of repairs or replacements within the next six years." Work is slated to soon begin on a portion of Liberty Street which collapsed in 2012 because of heavy machinery used by a private contractor, but it's unclear right now if this August 2013 inspection used that as the basis for the deficient rating, or if there were other problems. Coastline Drive was inspected in November 2014 and remained open until this latest Liberty Street hole.

The full bridge inspection reports are exempt from public records requests, however, WOKV obtained abbreviated information which shows both structures ranked low scores.

Coastline Drive had a sufficiency rating of 35.9 out of 100. The ranking is used to determine whether a bridge should be repaired or replaced, according to FDOT definitions posted online. The bridge scored a health index of 60.32 out of 100. The index measures the overall condition of the bridge, and FDOT says a low health index “may also indicate that it would be more economical to replace the bridge than to repair it.”

Liberty Street had a sufficiency rating of 35.4 and health index of 59.33.

FDOT was not able, at this time, to provide context to the rankings- for example, at what point a ranking is considered concerning. The District office says in cases like this where the road is actually a City road, they would pass along the inspection results and recommendations to the City, and the City would decide what to do with the road. A Spokesman could not yet say if that was the case for these two roads and what their recommendations were at the time.

Jacksonville Communications Director David DeCamp says they were aware that repairs would be needed, but planned to do that while the streets remained open.

“We have some need for repair, but there was no order to make it obsolete or close either section,” DeCamp says.

While a portion of Coastline is now closed, DeCamp says that’s more for ease repairing the Liberty Street collapse than any concern about the integrity of Coastline. A portion of the road remains open. Coastline between Liberty and Market, as well as Liberty and the adjoining parking lot are closed for an undetermined period of time. Contractors are looking to first remove the heavy debris from the collapsed portion of Liberty before they can get in to examine the stability of the remaining structure and possible cause of this most recent collapse.

The parking lot is maintained by the City, not FDOT. We’ve requested the most recent inspection report for the location. DeCamp says they’ve already hired a contracting firm to assess the stability of that structure as part of this greater project.

DeCamp says the City is now preparing options for how to pay for the demolition, and that will likely have to go through the City Council. It’s unclear how much the tab will cost.

The FDOT has agreed to perform a full review of the roads to determine whether they can be reasonably repaired or whether the City needs to consider larger options, including replacement. DeCamp says because of the age of the structures, they’re consistently looking at how to improve.

I asked whether the City is still confident in the FDOT rating system, which gave low marks to these roads but did not recommend closure.

“We’ve got to figure out what happened before we can make any kind of assessment,” he says.

He added only that the FDOT has been a good partner in the process since the collapse, and they will have a broad review after the situation is cleaned and assessed. FDOT didn’t return our request for comment today regarding the effectiveness of the ranking system.

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