Distinguish Jacksonville: The Bridges of Downtown

July 6, 2007 19 comments Open printer friendly version of this article Print Article

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.


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.