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Distinguish Jacksonville: The Bridges of Downtown

Connecting the River City for travel and commerce, they create an urban-scape that is unique in the Southeast. They are the bridges of Downtown Jacksonville.

Published July 6, 2007 in History      19 Comments    Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article



1. Florida East Coast Strauss Trunnion Bascule Bridge 

This double track railroad structure is the oldest remaining bridge crossing the mighty St. Johns.  It was constructed by oil magnate Henry M. Flagler, to provide better access to South Florida and served as the final chapter of Jacksonville's decline as a major tourist center.


The bascule bridge, completed in 1925, replaced the original swing-span bridge which was constructed in 1889.


2. St. Elmo Acosta Bridge 

Constructed in 1921, the original Acosta Bridge was the first automobile crossing over the St. Johns.  It was also the first vertical lift bridge in the state and the first in the Southeast to use a pneumatic process for the placement of its caissons.  Due to high maintenance costs and increased traffic flow, it came down in the 1990's to make way for the Acosta Bridge we know today.


The old bridge was originally called the St. Johns River Bridge.  Tolls were charged until 1940, earning more than $4 million for the city.


The current 1,645 foot long Acosta Bridge opened to traffic in 1993.  It carries six lanes of vehicular traffic and the two-track Skyway Express in the center.  The longest span is 630 feet in length and it has a clearance of 75 feet.



3. John T. Alsop, Jr Bridge (Main Street Bridge)

Serving as the backdrop for many postcards, the Main Street Bridge is the most well known river crossing in downtown.  Carrying four lanes, it was opened to vehicular traffic in July of 1941.

In its early years, all Northbound traffic continued along Main Street.  In 1978, this pattern was changed when several approach ramps were constructed.  Today, City Hall is looking at the possibility of taking the structure back to its original design.


The Main Street Bridge is a 1,680 foot long steel lift structure, with a vertical clearance of 135 feet when open and 35 feet when closed.


In 2006, Mayor Peyton announced the Big Idea Plan, which included reducing the heavily traveled bridge to 3 lanes to widen the sidewalk, hoping that more pedestrians would use the structure as a result.  However, that idea died due to the high level of traffic using the structure.  Instead, the Mayor's Office has discussed adding a cantilivered structure to increase sidewalk widths at some point in the future.


4. John E. Matthews Bridge

The Matthews takes the title of Downtown's most notorious crossing, due to the center span's steel grating.  Its 1953 opening also resulted in the boom of the Arlington and Regency areas, also signaling the leveling off of retail growth in downtown.  Today, the center span's grating is being replaced with a concrete surface.

The Matthews stretches 7,736 feet in length with a clearance below of 152 feet, enabling freighters to move to maritime related industries along Commodore's Point.


5. Fuller Warren Bridge

Originally opened one year after the Matthews, in 1954, the Fuller Warren Bridge is the most heavily traveled. 

The original bridge was a bascule structure that was known for clogging up Interstate 95 with toll booths and a vertical lift span.  Its ultimate demise also represents one of the recent missed opportunities that the city has failed to take advantage of.  For a relatively minor expense to convert it into a public pier, it was recently demolished at a cost higher than the potential conversion would have been.


The new 7,500 foot long segmental bridge opened in 2002.  It carries eight lanes across the St. Johns with a clearance below of 75 feet.


6. Isaiah David Hart Bridge

This structure is named after the founder of Jacksonville.  It was the last bridge to be constructed downtown before the Acosta and Fuller Warren replacements. 

The Hart Bridge's cantilever steel truss structure makes it a unique addition to the urban landscape.


The Hart stretches 3,844 feet across the river, with a clearance below of 141 feet.

Together the FEC, Acosta, Main, Matthews, Fuller Warren, and Hart Bridges combine to give downtown a visual appeal that can't be recreated anywhere else.



July 06, 2007, 08:10:18 AM
GREAT JOB..If somewhere in your research you came close to finding an expense amount  for maintianing these bridges it would be much appreciated by people trying to save the ferry

The ferry is expected to allow people to cross the river for free (no cost to the taxpayer that doesn't go that way) these bridges don't provide that either.


July 07, 2007, 10:45:53 AM
This is a cool article. Although not downtown, I think the Dames Point Bridge is worth mentioning.

The Dames Point Bridge (also known as the Napoleon Bonaparte Broward Bridge or Dame Point Bridge) spans the St. Johns River northeast of downtown Jacksonville, Florida. Two miles long, and 175 feet above the main channel of the river, the Dames Point Bridge connects northern Jacksonville with the Arlington and Beaches area of east Jacksonville via Florida Highway 9A. Opened to traffic in 1989, it is a premier example of the beautiful simplicity of the cable-stayed bridge.


November 18, 2008, 09:39:49 PM
Great article (except for the missed opportunity part about the old Fuller Warren bridge part). I have been across the Hart bridge a whole lot. It might need a fresh new coat of paint like the Dames Point bridge is getting!  :D  8)


November 19, 2008, 06:05:42 AM
I love jacksonville's bridges, especially at night.....they do make this place unique. When I tell people I now live in Jacksonville they always say "oh ya, that place with all the bridges!".


November 19, 2008, 07:56:15 AM
Yeah it'd be nice if the city painted both the Hart and the Matthews Bridges. It was amazing the difference after the Main St. Bridge was painted for the Super Bowl.
Also, it would also be nice if they ever built the supposed Timucan Bridge (I believe that's the name) that would be between the Fuller Warren and the Buckman and connect University Blvd to Roosevelt Blvd. Imagine the convenience.


November 19, 2008, 10:55:45 AM
Um...woohoo for the bridges? Yeah, they're functional, but I wouldn't go so far as to call them an attraction.

Dames Point is post-card worthy, impressive design there.


November 19, 2008, 11:13:16 AM
They're not necessarily an attraction but they are most definitely a significant part of Jacksonville's identity.  So yeah, woohoo for the bridges!  :)


November 19, 2008, 11:20:53 AM


November 19, 2008, 11:31:24 AM
Um...woohoo for the bridges? Yeah, they're functional, but I wouldn't go so far as to call them an attraction.

Dames Point is post-card worthy, impressive design there.

Ever since they repainted and added the neon light display to the Main St. Bridge I think it has made it a bit of an attraction.

There's nothing that says a bridge can't be both functional and an attraction. Notable examples are the Golden Gate and the Brooklyn.


November 19, 2008, 11:35:39 AM
Great shots Lunican. I just remember how during the Super Bowl the Main St. Bridge was a focal point of the whole event. Maybe one day it will be a pedestrian only bridge in a vibriant downtown. Only time will tell.


October 07, 2009, 11:55:33 PM
Just for fun, I thought you might like to see how we handled "Dames Point" in Colombia!

<a href=";hl=en&amp;fs=1" target="_blank" class="new_win">;hl=en&amp;fs=1</a>

This is in the Cauca Valley, near Cali... Okay, for you US school grads, that's center of the country, and off to the West side, one mountain range from the coast. Or in other words... It's not in FLORIDA!

This is REALLY FUN, but you know, 3rd world and all of that.... if you fall in the fish eat you, if the fish don't get you the croc's will, but if they miss the FARC or FALN guerrilla's will kidnap or shoot you, but if they don't get you you'll probably be robbed in the town square, however if that doesn't happen either, then one of the 50+ volcano's will pop and you'll be swept away in a lahar, or pyroclastic flow... LOL, Damn we North American's have all become spoiled little, chicken shit, cowards!!

The way I see it, he said
You just cant win it...
Everybodys in it for their own gain
You cant please em all
Theres always somebody calling you down
I do my best
And I do good business
Theres a lot of people asking for my time
Theyre trying to get ahead
Theyre trying to be a good friend of mine

I was a free man in pereira
I felt unfettered and alive
There was nobody calling me up for favors
And no ones future to decide
You know Id go back there tomorrow
But for the work Ive taken on
Stoking the streetcar maker machinery
Behind the popular throngs...

With apology's to Joni!


Charles Hunter

October 08, 2009, 06:50:04 AM
Went across Dames Point Bridge the other day - they've finished the paint job!  And the Hart painting seems to be coming along - cool "covered bridge" effect at the Stadium end right now.


October 08, 2009, 02:02:52 PM
There will always be one of the bridges being painted and one needing paint.

heights unknown

October 08, 2009, 03:22:07 PM
City of Bridges, City of Bridges, Dames, Hart, Main Street, Fuller Warren, Matthews, the big 5.

Heights Unknown


October 10, 2009, 10:56:26 AM
That's a nice shot of the Old Acosta; the layout had changed by the time I moved here as a kid but I do remember that old "666 Colds" building at the northeastern foot of the bridge. I always grinned to see that emblazoned in bright neon in a Bible Belt town. I was surprised to find the company is still in business and headquartered in Jacksonville. Here's a better shot of that building as I remember it, from their web site:


March 15, 2010, 10:02:43 PM
The original railroad bridge mentioned above was built by Flagler for the Jacksonville, St. Augustine & Indian River Railway, which became the Florida East Coast in 1895. The first Acosta Bridge was built so high because it had to clear the open span of the railroad bridge below it. (I'm guessing it was built beside it because of the government, since a bridge represented a potential hazard to navigation and beside the existing bridge would preserve the existing channel with minimum impedance.) The bridge was opened and closed by one of two small steam engines housed on either side of the center of the span. There were two boilers and engines so one could be out of service for maintenance. There's a picture of the bridge in the Publix on Riverside Avenue from the Jacksonville Historical Society, although the caption says the bridge was opened and closed with a manual crank mechanism. While small drawbridges were hand-cranked (the Seaboard bridge over the Trout River was), it would have been impossible to operate such a big bridge that way considering the number of times it was opened and closed every day. If you look at the picture closely, you will see the boiler houses and the twin smoke stacks above them.
The increase of traffic in the 1920s caused the FEC to double-track its main line as far as Miami (the Key West extension not needing it) and replace the bottle-neck bridge with the current structure, which is a Strauss Heel-Trunion. The trusses are Pratt, which is what the old Acosta was, too. The 1920s was about the end of that style's popularity. A Pratt truss looks like this: /|/|/|/|\|\|\|\
The Main Street-St. Elmo Acosta is a Warren truss:  /|\|/|\|/|\|/|\
The diagonal members of the truss give it the strength. In a Pratt truss the vertical members are an integral part of the triangle. Many smaller Warren trusses have no vertical members: /\/\/\/\


March 15, 2010, 10:17:17 PM
^LP, thanks for the enlightenment.  I posted this picture at another thread (see,4671.0.html  ) and identified it as the 1925 bridge which is what the label called it.  Mtrain disagreed, noting a single track in the picture.  On review, it appears that is because the second track was under construction.  What is your take?


March 16, 2010, 01:35:23 AM
While small drawbridges were hand-cranked (the Seaboard bridge over the Trout River was), it would have been impossible to operate such a big bridge that way considering the number of times it was opened and closed every day.

STJR, the 1890 bridge was double tracked in 1925, 6 years after the Jacksonville Terminal (Prime Osbourne) was completed. Your photo find is certainly during the construction, as is mine.

Nice contribution LP, I like the /// description of some of the bridge types. As of a recent JTA study, the Trout River bridge is STILL a hand cranked span which I suppose is almost never used by river traffic. The study for Commuter Rail listed it as a choke point as well as an expense to modernize and automate it.



March 16, 2010, 09:05:49 PM
stjr: Your picture does show the double-track bridge being installed in 1925. There is one track shown, but you can see the girders to the left which supported the second track. There's an aerial view of the new bridge in Wayne Wood's book on Jacksonville's Historic Architecture. If you look closely at the picture, you can see the swing span of the old bridge mounted on a barge near the south end of the bridge, in the area where Baptist Hospital and the old Prudential buildings are now.

OCK: I saw the Trout River bridge being opened one day about twenty years ago. I happened to be on the old Main Street bridge there when the bridge tender came out of his shack with a long bar, which he inserted in the center of the bridge. He then walked around in circles, opening the bridge for a boat. The bridge is no longer manned, I believe, as CSX has posted signs on it indicating a number to be called 24 hours in advance of the bridge's needing to be opened. Apparently the Army Corps of Engineers allowed this as the Trout River is not really a commercially navigable waterway. (Just a guess on my part.) Large recreational boats on it are rare, I suppose.
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