Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Get out of Town on the Mathews; the State DOT Will Allow Eastbound Cars to Use the Bridge during Rush Hour

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Get out of Town on the Mathews; the State DOT Will Allow Eastbound Cars to Use the Bridge during Rush Hour

Article excerpt

Byline: TIMOTHY J. GIBBONS

Following a whirlwind tour of congested areas by the secretary of the state Department of Transportation, the department decided Tuesday evening to allow eastbound traffic to use the Mathews Bridge during afternoon rush hour.

The switch will not go into place until at least Monday as the department works out details with its contractors.

The decision comes a week after repair work on the Jacksonville bridge began, requiring the closure of two lanes.

For the past week, complaints have poured into the DOT office locally and in Tallahassee, prompting Secretary Stephanie Kopelousos' visit. Kopelousos, a Clay County native, said she heard from many area residents and politicians about the congestion.

In fact, DOT's decision was announced Tuesday evening shortly after the Jacksonville City Council passed a resolution urging the lane shift during peak hours. DOT officials said they were unaware of the vote.

The Jacksonville Sheriff's Office, commuters and politicians have argued that, because the bridge is the main connection for drivers heading downtown from the Arlington area, it should be open westbound for morning commuters and eastbound for evening commuters.

Over the past week, the department has given various reasons for keeping the bridge westbound-only all day, throughout the entire 90 days that lanes are closed. The rationale included the confusion created for drivers, the impact on drivers who use the bridge to come downtown in the afternoon and the cost of switching the lanes twice a day.

But allowing rush hour traffic to use the bridge to get out of downtown will provide an easier commute, the secretary said.

"We would not be doing it if we didn't think it would make some improvement," Kopelousos said. "Our intent is to make a bad situation better."

After driving the detour route Tuesday - looking at Arlington, Beach and University boulevards and the Hart Expressway - DOT officials said congestion was not as bad as it was a week ago, the day after work on the bridge began, but traffic was still not flowing as well as expected. …

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