JACKSONVILLE, Fla. - A Jacksonville mother said a loose grate damaged her SUV and caused her to nearly lose control in the middle of traffic. The sudden damage to her SUV’s wheel put her, and other drivers, in danger. She reached out to Action News Jax, and the station decided to “Send Ben.”
Jeannie Miller said she was driving across the Fuller Warren Bridge on Jan. 14, heading to a meeting. She said she was heading south when she drove into a sewer grate that was loose.
“I couldn’t avoid it. I had to go right over it, and suddenly heard a loud hit,” she said.
The grate ended up on the side of the road, leaving a big empty space in the breakdown lane. Because of road construction, that lane was in active use, and there is little shoulder room. Driving over the grate caused Miller’s tire to blow out. It also bent the rim, and may have damaged her SUV’'s suspension and frame. Because she has special tires, she was able to get to safety. She fears, if this had happened to another driver without the special tires, they may have been hurt.
Hampton Ray with the Florida Department of Transportation said there are 13 grates like that on the Fuller Warren Bridge.
“We anticipate a large load was traveling at a faster speed than the posted limit,” Ray said when asked what may have knocked the grate cover out of place. He said the grates were checked monthly before this incident, but now FDOT plans to check them biweekly.
When asked if FDOT would accept responsibility for the incident, Ray said, “The grates were designed to withstand this traffic. When it comes to speaking with the individual, we would love to communicate with them.”
After “Send Ben” interviewed Miller, she received an email from FDOT that referred to contractor Archer Western. The email said that Archer Western “will perform their investigation of the event and will provide you their findings and determination of accountability.” So “Send Ben” called Archer Western, but had to leave a message.
Ray, from FDOT, said the grate cover was replaced as soon as the agency learned of the incident. “Send Ben” asked FDOT for the name and manufacturer of the grate, as well as the type and size, to see if there have been problems elsewhere. “Send Ben” is still waiting for FDOT’s response.
For now, Miller said she and her family are changing their driving routine.
“I can tell you, I will not be crossing the Fuller Warren for a while,” she said. “My daughter has to cross over the bridge every day to go to high school, and she will not be driving over it for a while.”
© 2019 Cox Media Group.