What's up with all the Dames Point lane detours, a Jacksonville reader asks

An FDOT crew conducts a 2019 inspection of the Dames Point bridge as seen in department video.
An FDOT crew conducts a 2019 inspection of the Dames Point bridge as seen in department video.

It is the city's most soaring span across the St. Johns River, officially called the Napoleon Bonaparte Broward Bridge.

But we just call it the Dames Point bridge since that's the name of a spit of land that it passes over as it descends into Northside Jacksonville.

As one of the almost 80,000 drivers a day who regularly passes over the six-lane span, according to Florida Department of Transportation figures, I've noticed what at least one reader has. In a recent email, the reader asks about a regular number of lane closures with workers examining the arching bridge.

'Whoop-de-whoops': Should drivers be concerned about bouncy Butler Boulevard bridge?

Big changesI-295 project would affect Southside Jacksonville road

"Can you ask FDOT, or whoever maintains bridges, why it seems they are almost constantly working on the Dames Point bridge, closing the outside lanes," the reader inquired. "It seems hardly a week goes by when they aren't doing this in one direction or another. I don't see this level of work on any other bridge in town. And why can't they do this work at night instead of weekdays daylight time when traffic is heaviest?"

The Dames Point bridge looking toward its Arlington side in this image from an FDOT video.
The Dames Point bridge looking toward its Arlington side in this image from an FDOT video.

I've seen one or the other outside lane of the span blocked off as trucks with articulated arms hold workers over the side to examine the superstructure, or people conduct unknown jobs on the roadside. So I asked FDOT spokesman Hampton Ray what's up.

Ray said the Dames Point has been under construction for lighting improvements since fall 2020. The improvements include the installation of navigational lights, plus the removal and replacement of electrical conduit. The FDOT also has to work on protective structures at the river level of the bridge.

What or who is behind Jacksonville bridge and street names?: Some names you may not recognize

Jacksonville's Hart Bridge deemed healthyFDOT divers inspect its piers

"The work will improve safety of navigation and extend the usable life of the electrical systems associated with the work," Ray said. "The project is expected to be completed in late 2022, weather and unforeseen circumstances permitting."

Because of the nature of the work, daytime bridge lane closures are necessary for the safety of the construction crew and those of us driving past, he said. But he said these lane closures are usually done during off-peak daytime hours to reduce the impact to motorists.

There have been other projects causing outside lane closures in recent times.

Three years ago bridge inspectors worked all over the Dames Point as part of a routine inspection of the steel cables that connect the towers and bridge span to support the structure. The FDOT said crews used climbing and safety harnesses to inspect the cables above the roadway as well.

The FDOT also conducted single lane closures in mid-October of last year for more of the usual bridge inspections.

Road work continues with detour

Pedestrian safety and intersection improvements continue on 103rd Street as it crosses Ricker Road, Hillman Drive/McManus Drive and East La Ventura Drive, according to the FDOT.

The $2.8 million project, begun in late August, will see improvements at the three intersections that will include new traffic signal mast arms and upgrades, updated streetlights, crosswalk re-striping and installation of LED countdown pedestrian signals.

On the Road: For anyone who travels Beach and Southside boulevards in Jacksonville, read on

The Ricker intersection improvements also include its widening for installation of new dedicated left-turn lanes at its north and south sides. To help build that extra lane on the south side, Ricker will be temporarily closed at the intersection starting this month, the FDOT said. So northbound Ricker traffic will be detoured via Falcon Street and Hillman Drive.

Along with the temporary detour, drivers should expect nighttime lane closures on 103rd Street near these intersections throughout the duration of the project, expected to be done in spring 2023. No closures will be scheduled during peak driving times or on holidays or special events.

Lower gas pains

Florida gas prices dropped again in late September to the tune of 3 cents per gallon, said AAA. That means the state average dropped for three consecutive weeks, a total of 20 cents per gallon since Aug. 27. Or to put it another way, that's a total of $1.47 per gallon less since mid-June.

Price checkWhere are the lowest gas prices in Jacksonville? Here’s an updated list.

A late September fill-up of an average 15-gallon gas tank cost Florida drivers about $51; $22 less than what they paid in mid-June when gas prices reached a record-high $4.89 per gallon, AAA said.

dscanlan@jacksonville.com: (904) 359-4549

This article originally appeared on Florida Times-Union: FDOT closes Dames Point bridge lanes for Jacksonville road work