JACKSONVILLE Fla. -- The gouge in the Mathews Bridge may look a relatively small but engineers tell Action News the point of impact shows the damage could be massive.
"The hit in the structure itself or the super structure, which is the most vulnerable part, and being hit laterally, that's a big deal," said UNF Associate Professor of Civil Engineering Adel El Safty.
[Slideshow: Ship hits Mathews Bridge
El Safty says the impact may have caused a chain reaction in the structure.
"That might not be localized for this specific element; it can extend to the next element or the gusset plate right here or the whole entire connection," he explained while drawing a schematic of the bridge on a piece of paper.
The UNF associate professor says an inspection could take days. Repairs to the complex cantilever truss structure could take months.
"It is a sophisticated process of reviewing the design, going through the inspections very thoroughly and then coming up with a very good detailed repair plan. A repair itself is not going to be easy," he said.
Depending on what the inspection reveals, the entire section of the bridge may need to be cut out and replaced.
Engineers say they hope it's not the nail in the coffin for the bridge.
"To replace it, we will need hundreds of millions of dollars to replace such a bridge because it's very costly," El Safty said.