When a naval ship struck a critical steel member in the center span of the Mathews
Bridge in Jacksonville, Florida, the collision caused significant damage and an
immediate bridge closure.
Within hours of the bridge strike, Burgess & Niple (B&N) engineers and facility
were retained by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) as a subconsultant
to RS&H to provide immediate assistance. The B&N team was onsite within 24 hours
to assist with a thorough inspection of the damaged bridge and help facilitate the
development of plans for repairing and restoring this important transportation link.
The Mathews Bridge is a 7,375-foot-long steel through truss, with a roadway deck
that rises 150 feet above the St. Johns River. Located on the Arlington Expressway
– a main route for the city – reopening the Mathews Bridge promptly and ensuring
the safety of the structure was essential to the community and local economy.
The steel member that was struck by the ship was a primary load-carrying component
of the truss bridge, which made the impact near catastrophic. In order to minimize
loads on the bridge, FDOT decided not to use mechanical access equipment, such as
bucket trucks, for the inspection work. B&N’s ability to inspect the bridge using
industrial rope access and adapted climbing techniques provided a significant advantage
in this emergency response situation, and allowed full access to all critical areas
of the structure.
The B&N team was onsite for approximately one month and provided a variety of engineering
- Immediate inspections to determine the extent of damage following the ship impact
- Input for and review of proposed repair strategies
- Inspections prior to and during the installation of temporary shoring
- Accessing hard-to-reach areas to measure bridge components for the contractor, prior
to cutting and fabricating new steel for the bridge repairs
- Inspection following the completion of all repair work
- Installation and testing of strain gage instrumentation
B&N was available for the emergency inspection as part of on-call bridge inspection
and design contracts in Florida. B&N has inspected the Mathews Bridge multiple times
over the past 20 years for FDOT. The data and reports gathered during recent inspections,
plus familiarity with the span, were helpful in analyzing the condition of the bridge
following the collision.