The Bridges of Downtown Jacksonville

Connecting the city for travel and commerce, they create an an urban environment that is unique in the Southeast. They are the six bridges of downtown Jacksonville.

Published May 17, 2013 in Neighborhoods -

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 originally 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. This 1925 bascule bridge replaced the original swing-span bridge that opened on January 5, 1890.

2. St. Elmo Acosta Bridge

Image courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.

Constructed in 1921, the original Acosta Bridge was the first automobile and only streetcar 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.  Originally known as the St. Johns River Bridge, the "Yellow Monster" was eventually named for City Councilman St. Elmo W. Acosta, who convinced voters to approve the bond issue to build the bridge. The old bridge was originally called the St. Johns River Bridge.  Tolls were charged until 1940, earning more than $4 million for the city.

Image courtesy of State Archives of Florida.

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 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)

Image courtesy of State Archives of Florida.

Serving as the backdrop for many postcards, the Main Street Bridge may be the city's most iconic.  The four-lane bridge opened to vehicular traffic in July of 1941. 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 1957, it was named after Mayor John T. Alsop, Jr.  In 1958, the south approach to the bridge was converted into an elevated expressway by the Jacksonville Expressway Authority.  20 years later, in 1978, the bridge's north approach was modified with several approach ramps to serve a network of one-way streets in downtown. 

Main Street Bridge and Friendship Fountain during the 1960s. Image courtesy of State Archives of Florida.

4. John E. Mathews Bridge

The Mathews Bridge under construction. Built between 1951 and 1953, it was dedicated to Judge Mathews who had advocated building the bridge since the early 1930s. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

For many years, the Matthews was considered downtown's most notorious crossing, due to the center span's steel grating.  Named after the state legislator who helped gather its funding, John E. Mathews, the bridge opened in 1953, resulting in the population boom in Arlington while also signaling the leveling off of retail development in downtown. The Mathews 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.  In 2007, the bridge's dangerous center span grating was replaced with a lightweight concrete surface.

5. Fuller Warren Bridge

Image courtesy of the State Archives of Florida.

Originally completed one year after the Mathews (1954), the Fuller Warren is the most heavily traveled bridge in downtown Jacksonville.  The original bridge was a bascule structure that was known for clogging up Interstate 95 traffic with toll booths and a vertical lift span.  It's ultimate demise also represents one of the recent missed opportunities that the city has failed to take advantage of.  It was demolished in 2007 at a cost higher than it would have been to convert the structure into a public pier.  The current structure was completed in 2002 by the Florida Department of Transportation. The 7,500 foot segmental bridge carries eight lanes across the St. Johns with a clearance below of 75 feet.

6. Isaiah David Hart Bridge

The Hart Bridge in 1981. Courtesy of the State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory,

This structure is named after the founder of Jacksonville, Isaiah David Hart.  Completed in 1967, it was the last river crossing to be constructed in downtown before the Acosta and Fuller Warren replacements. It was envisioned to be a part of an expressway to the beach that was never completed. The Hart Bridge's cantilever steel truss structure makes it a unique addition to the urban landscape. Referred to as the "Green Monster", the Hart stretches 3,844 feet across the river with a clearance below of 141 feet.

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

Article by Ennis Davis, AICP. Contact Ennis at

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