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Mathews Bridge expected to open Tuesday

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Updated: 10/29/2013 3:27 am
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -- Just 33 days after a ship hit the Matthews Bridge, it's expected to open again to traffic on Tuesday.

"I want to make sure it's fixed for sure," says driver Kevin Cope.

Kevin and his wide Tami think the FDOT was pushed to open the bridge in time for the Florida Georgia game.

"A lot of people will be here and that's a lot of pressure," says Tami.

FDOT Spokesman Mike Goldman tells Action News the logistics of the project were challenging, and that the game and resulting congestion on other bridges motivated workers to finish ahead of schedule.

"There were some nerve wracking experiences up there just to make sure the work was done right."

Goldman says 80 engineers worked around the clock in dangerous conditions, on a project like nothing they've ever tackled before. Despite the challenges, he's confident the bridge is stable.

"If that bridge is not safe for traffic, we're not going to open it up."

We took documentation of the FDOT's work to UNF professor and structural engineer Dr. Adel ElSafty. He believes the bridge was close to collapsing, but the bridge was immediately shut down, it prevented the damage from spreading.

"We don't have any guessing when it comes to structural engineering. It has to be right."

ElSafty says the bridge has passed every inspection so far. There are 10 miles of wires and sensors tracking its stability.

"When we hear confirmation from the state officials and the department of transportation that it is safe and sound, that means it is safe and sound."

Drivers like the Copes hope so.

"I don't they they'd take the chance of a bridge falling with so many people cross on it every day. I just don't think so."

If the bridge passes further state inspection Tuesday morning, Goldman says it will likely open after the Tuesday evening rush hour.

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