STUART, Fla. — Contradicting the dramatic comments made by the U.S. Coast Guard, officials in Stuart said Wednesday there is no "immediate risk of collapse" at the Roosevelt Bridge after chunks of concrete fell.
All north and southbound lanes of the bridge, along with Old Dixie Highway which runs underneath the bridge, are now closed until further notice while engineers inspect and repair the damage.
"This is a rapidly evolving situation," said Stuart Mayor Mike Meier at a news conference.
Meier said that during a routine bridge inspection on Tuesday night, a call was made to the Florida Department of Transportation that there was falling concrete on the southbound side of bridge.
The concrete did not fall on any vehicles, officials said.
Upon inspection, engineers with FDOT found that rust in the steel cables had been exposed when the concrete fell. Further inspection revealed an area of concern on the northbound side of the bridge as well.
"Unfortunately, they did find some structural issues on the northbound bridge," Meier said.
The Coast Guard began warning boaters via scanners just after 2 a.m. Wednesday, saying the bridge was at "risk of imminent collapse."
"All stations, all stations, this is United States Coast Guard Center Miami, Florida. All vessels are required to keep clear of the new Roosevelt Bridge until further notice, due to the risk of imminent collapse," the message blared.
However, Meier countered those claims on Wednesday afternoon, saying FDOT engineers have not found any evidence that the bridge is at immediate risk of collapsing.
"There is no evidence to suggest that the bridge will collapse imminently. That message was delivered by the Coast Guard early this morning in what we believe was a measure to drive the point home that it was not safe to drive under the bridge," Meier said. "There is no dire immediate risk of collapse."
A large crack can be seen along the south end of the bridge.
In a tweet around 7:30 a.m., the Coast Guard said it had established a safety zone for stopping commercial maritime traffic from going underneath the Roosevelt Bridge.
However, as of Wednesday afternoon, boats can once again travel under the bridge, officials said.
Business owners in the area are also being affected.
"Definitely a lot slower than we're used to for a normal lunch crowd. Just the traffic down here, in general, is a lot less than what we're used to seeing on a normal weekday," said Michael Fitelson, GM at Spritz City Bistro.
"I'm a firm believer of any setback, the comeback is going to be greater," said Lisa Freitas, Owner of Lisa Gay Fashion.
Local leaders said there will be a major impact to traffic and urged drivers to avoid using downtown Stuart as a cut-through.
"We are going to have some very serious traffic issues," said Stuart Police Chief Joseph Tumminelli.
Tumminelli suggested that drivers who normally use the Roosevelt Bridge to head west and take Interstate 95 and Florida's Turnpike instead, adding that he anticipates drive times to increase by 30 to 40 minutes.
"We do not have a timeline yet from DOT as to how long the bridge will, in fact, be closed down," said State Rep. Toby Overdorf.
The Stuart Police Department started warning drivers just after midnight on Wednesday to avoid the area because of the incident
"What we do know is some concrete fell from underneath the Roosevelt Bridge and there were concerns about the bridge and its safety at that time," Stuart police spokesperson Sgt. Brian Bossio said. "We immediately, out of caution, closed down southbound lanes to ensure that it is safe for everyone."
Stuart police tweeted Wednesday evening that tolls between Stuart and Port St. Lucie will be temporarily suspended on the Florida Turnpike due to the bridge closing.
To see inspection scores from local bridges, click here.