Metro Jacksonville's Kelsi Hasden questions the closure of the Mathews Bridge during major sporting events.
The USA Women's soccer team played against Scotland Saturday night, breaking the attendance record at a US Womens National Team game in the Southeast, merely months after breaking the attendance record for the Mens National Team. With over 18,000 people in attendance, you would think the city would find a way to accommodate the traffic from the beaches to downtown, especially when Jags games bring in over 60,000 people per game. This should be old hat for the city, but they apparently failed to anticipate the number of soccer fans attending the game. The closure of the Matthews Bridge forced traffic to the Hart Bridge, which turned a 20 minute drive (even in Jaguar game day traffic) into a 45 minute drive. Upon arriving at the stadium, all traffic was forced to go one direction which then caused everyone to park in the first available lot they came across. The way the traffic was being directed caused everyone coming off the Hart Bridge to pass two open parking lots. At the end of the game, which was phenomenal, all of those cars became bottle necked for more than 30 minutes because the traffic lights were not being manually controlled to route the cars.
This disaster raises the question, how does the city expect to acquire an MLS team or attract any kind of event when they can't handle the traffic that those events are sure to have? The Matthews Bridge is so vital that having it closed when there is a major event downtown causes chaos. Verlander, JSO, JTA, FDOT and whoever is responsible for road closures need to maintain better communication because traveling to and from the game Saturday night was an embarrassment for the city. Attending Jags games and events like World of Nations demonstrate that the city is capable of handling large numbers of people, but issues like Saturday night make people doubt the city's abilities to consistently handle high demand.
Editorial by Kelsi Hasden