Shands Pier to be demolished, replaced with new First Coast Expressway bridge

Zoey Fields

The Shands Boat Ramp, bulkhead and parking area at 4051 Shands Pier Road in Green Cove Springs will be temporarily closed starting June 16 for demolition of the Shands Fishing Pier deck which was damaged beyond repair in 2016 by Hurricane Matthew.

The parking area, bulkhead and boat ramp will be temporarily closed for approximately three months during the demolition which is led by Hal Jones Contractor in Jacksonville.

Crews are slated to begin removing the remaining piles and timbers in the upcoming days and work is expected to be complete by September, Clay County Public Information Officer Annaleasa Winter said.

The Florida Department of Transportation is preparing for the third and final segment of the First Coast Expressway which includes a new four-lane bridge over the St. Johns River, just south of where the Shands Bridge currently stands. Work on this segment is set to take bids in August.

Once complete, the old Shands Bridge will be turned into a 672-foot fishing pier and recreation area for Clay County residents to enjoy, Winter said.

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The Shands Fishing Pier was destroyed beyond repair in 2016 by Hurricane Matthew.Clay County Government

This segment of the First Coast Expressway, along State Road 23, is 6.5 miles, including a 9,300-foot bridge. The bridge will have two 12-foot travel lanes in each direction, 12-foot outside shoulders and a 12-foot, 8.5-inch shared use path on the northbound side of the bridge to accommodate pedestrians and bicyclists, FDOT Community Outreach Specialist Sara Pleasants said.

By comparison, the existing Shands Bridge can accommodate only two lanes of traffic, one in each direction, and only has a 3-foot emergency shoulder. The new bridge will have an increased speed limit of 70 mph, as opposed to the current 55 mph speed limit.

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Historic photo - Old Shands Pier over the St. John's River.Clay County Archives

A 65-foot clearance along the bridge will allow larger marine traffic to access the Port of Palatka. Once construction is complete, the Shands Bridge will be mostly demolished, with portions of the bridge on either side of the river (in Clay and St. Johns counties) converted to public fishing piers, Pleasants said.

The goal of this project, and the larger First Coast Expressway, is to provide the necessary infrastructure to support continued residential and economic growth in the region; specifically, the new bridge will offer enhanced capacity and safety for the traveling public and create new opportunities for marine commerce.

The project is expected to begin construction in fall 2022, but because the contract for the project will not be awarded until August, it is impossible to predict what lane closures/traffic impacts may occur as part of construction, Pleasants said, but FDOT will make every effort to minimize impacts to residents, businesses and the traveling public

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Accredited journalist with experience covering a wide range of stories consisting of breaking news, city and county government, crime and courts, feature stories and local interest. Facebook Bulletin writer, reporter; The Learning Curve. Twitter: @zoeyfields0

Jacksonville, FL
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