Hurricane Irma’s battering waves have left a crucial link in a well-used riverfront Jacksonville roadway out of commission.

 

The shutdown of the Browns Creek Bridge on Heckscher Drive for emergency repairs means anyone trying to get past it to the homes and businesses on its winding two-lane route inside Duval County face about 50 miles of detour through Nassau County, according to the Florida Department of Transportation.

The St. Johns River rose 3 to 5 feet during Irma’s northward passage Sunday and Monday, not counting the wind-driven waves. The most damage was to the concrete lining the sides of the bridge’s approach lanes flanked by Chowder Ted’s and Brown’s Creek Fish Camp on the west side. Some of the rock filling the interior washed away.

“That is the support area that was eroded out, no doubt with the surge as the water eroded away some of the soil and foundation to the bridge,” Transportation Department spokesman Ron Tittle said. “We want to make sure we do the work to maintain and support that road structure and not undermine it. Our contractor office staff were out there and we are working on an emergency contract.”

The bridge is just east of the entrance to the city’s Blount Island port facility and Blount Island Boulevard. Anyone trying to bypass the bridge to homes, Heckscher Drive Baptist Church, St. Johns River Ferry landing, city boat ramps and the BAE Systems shipyard will have to detour to the long way around.


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The northbound detour starts at west Interstate 295, then north Interstate 95 before exiting east on Florida 200 through busy Yulee and over the Thomas Shave Jr. Bridge. There’s a turn onto Amelia Island Parkway/Florida A1A, then south and back onto Heckscher Drive. Southbound motorists do that in reverse, reminded that the route is two lanes until they hit four-lane Florida 200 through Yulee and the interstates.

Tittle said the bridge contract will go through an emergency bid process so the repair work can begin as soon as possible. No start date is available yet, but it could begin as soon as Friday and be done a week from then, weather permitting.

Dan Scanlan: (904) 359-4549