The seven bridges that cross the St. Johns River in Jacksonville are perhaps the city’s most iconic feature.
The bridges were a product of the city’s growth and the quick rise in vehicle traffic in the 20th century. They provide access to and from various parts of Jax, and are an absolute necessity given the city’s spread-out nature and the presence of the St. Johns River.
We absolutely love our city’s bridges – yes, even the Buckman – so a while back we wrote profiles of each of them. Now, we’ve compiled those profiles into one comprehensive article detailing all seven of the city’s bridges. Bridge lovers, today’s your day!
Once upon a time, there weren’t any bridges in Jacksonville that crossed over the St. Johns River. In 1921, the opening of the original Acosta Bridge provided a solution to this issue.
The bridge, originally known as the St. Johns River Bridge, came about as the result of councilman St. Elmo W. Acosta’s efforts to secure its funding. It was replaced in 1994 by an updated version.
The original bridge was 1,645 feet long – same as the new one that stands today. It spanned three lanes, with the center lane being reversible based on traffic necessities.
For nearly twenty years, it operated as a toll bridge. Residents could purchase a special Acosta Bridge license plate that allowed for free travel across the bridge.
The old bridge featured a steel vertical lift design. It earned the nickname “Yellow Monster” due to the steel’s yellow hue and its tendency to get stuck, causing traffic delays.
Construction began on the new six-lane version of the bridge in 1990, and it officially opened in 1994. It includes two sidewalks as well as two monorail tracks running through the middle to accommodate the Skyway.
The new bridge features a box girder design; it utilizes pre-stressed concrete, making it much more reliable than its predecessor. It’s also twice the width of the previous bridge.
It exits onto Water Street and Riverside Avenue at its northbound exit. Its southbound exit extends into San Marco, carrying traffic onto the Acosta Expressway.
The bridge is notable for allowing bicycle traffic in its commuter lanes. Between this, the sidewalks, and the Skyway rails, the Acosta Bridge is one of the most pedestrian-friendly bridges in the city.
The Buckman Bridge carries traffic on the I-295 West Beltway between exits for San Jose Boulevard and Park Avenue/Roosevelt Boulevard.
The bridge was constructed in the late 1960s. The process was not entirely smooth; according to a 2008 retrospective by the Times-Union, construction had to be halted at one point due to explosions caused by excess methane gas coming from the river.
It was expanded to eight lanes in the mid-1990s to accommodate the massive traffic demands.
The bridge features a steel multi-beam design. It’s a dual bridge, wherein eastbound and westbound traffic each have their own separate bridge span. It holds the record for most dual bridge lane miles, according to the Florida Department of Transportation. Its total length is 16,300 feet — that’s about 3.1 miles, making it among the longest bridges in the country.
The bridge is named in honor of Henry Holland Buckman. Buckman, a Jacksonville native, was a legislator perhaps best known for the Buckman Act, which he authored in 1905. It organized the state universities of Florida into three categories: one for women which became Florida State University, one for men which became University of Florida, and a racially segregated school for black Floridians which became Florida A&M University.
The Buckman Bridge is considered by many to be a headache due to its frequent traffic backups, and it’s perhaps the city’s most accident-prone bridge due to its incline and length.
DAMES POINT BRIDGE
Constructed in the late 1980s, the Napoleon B. Broward Bridge (or “Dames Point Bridge”, as it is more commonly known) is a cable-stayed bridge that serves as part of Jacksonville’s I-295 Beltway. It helps to provide a connection between northern Jacksonville and the rest of the city.
The bridge crosses over the sparsely-populated Bartram Island (once known as Quarantine Island) that lies between the Arlington and New Berlin neighborhoods.
The most notable feature of the Dames Point Bridge is its cable-stayed design. A cable-stayed bridge involves the use of large columns, to which a series of cables are attached. Those cables are responsible for holding up the bridge. The Dames Point Bridge utilizes a specific subset of cable-stayed bridge known as a “harp” design, wherein the cables don’t cross over the top of the bridge itself. At one time, it was the only bridge designed in this fashion in the United States.
The bridge utilizes more than 20 miles worth of cables and spans over 10,000 feet in length.
The bridge is officially named after Napoleon Bonaparte Broward. Broward, a Jacksonville native, served as the state’s governor from 1905 to 1909.
It’s called Dames Point Bridge because the neighborhood of New Berlin, located near the northern-most point of the bridge, used to be known as Dames Point.
The bridge’s construction began in 1985 and opened to traffic in 1989. It was designed by a combination of Kansas City, MO-based Howard, Needles, Tammen & Bergendoff and the locally-based RS&H, Inc.
The Dames Point Bridge is the eastern-most of the city’s seven bridges, and therefore is the first seen by ships entering from the Atlantic Ocean.
FULLER WARREN BRIDGE
Locals will likely recognize it as the site of daily rush-hour traffic jams on I-95, as it’s one of the city’s busiest and most important bridges.
It carries westbound traffic across the river from San Marco to Riverside, accessible via the Post Street exit, and onward to northern Jacksonville and the I-10 interchange. Eastbound traffic is carried from Riverside across to San Marco. It also allows I-95 traffic to continue into the Southside area.
The original version of the Fuller Warren Bridge opened in 1954. It had four lanes and a toll booth. It began to fall apart in the ‘90s, leading to its modern replacement.
The new bridge was designed by HNTB Corporation, a national architecture firm. It is a girder bridge by design, in contrast to the old bridge’s bascule design. At eight lanes, it’s twice as large as the old bridge. The bridge is 7,500 feet long and has a clearance of 75 feet below it. The bridge opened officially in 2002, a year after the old bridge was closed permanently.
The bridge is named for Fuller Warren, Florida’s 30th governor. He served on the Jacksonville city council for six years prior to becoming governor.
A pedestrian and bike pathway is currently being added to the bridge.
Constructed in 1967, the Isaiah David Hart Bridge is a crucial part of both the city’s skyline and the connection between the Southside and downtown.
The bridge is most notable for its sea-green color, with bright lights at the bridge’s base illuminating the entire span at night. It’s also notable for how massive it is; according to the National Steel Bridge Alliance, it ranked as the 19th longest cantilever truss bridge in the world as of 1999. The bridge’s main steel span covers 1,088 feet, with the entire bridge covering a length of 3,844 feet — or a little over 7/10th of a mile.
Many locals best know the bridge as the “home stretch” of the GATE River Run, the nation’s biggest 15K race, leading up to the finish line at TIAA Bank Field. Some runners refer to it as the “Green Monster” for this reason.
The bridge carries traffic from downtown to both Atlantic and Beach Boulevard, and vice versa. It’s the easiest way for residents of the Beaches area to access the city’s sports complexes, including TIAA Bank Field as well as the Veterans Memorial Arena and Baseball Grounds.
It was designed by Sverdrup & Parcel, a bridge engineering firm. The firm and its successor, Jacobs Engineering Group, was the center of much controversy when one of its other bridges, Minneapolis’ I-35W Mississippi River Bridge, collapsed in 2007 killing 13 people. The successor firm was sued due to speculation of design errors, and eventually settled for $8.9 million.
Most recently, the city has discussed re-configuring the northern end of the bridge to remove the elevated ramps that carry traffic from the bridge to the middle of downtown.
The bridge is named after Isaiah D. Hart, who is generally considered to be the founder of Jacksonville.
MAIN STREET BRIDGE
Opening to traffic in 1941, the Main Street Bridge has long been one of the most distinctive parts of the Jacksonville skyline.
The bridge, officially named the John T. Alsop Jr. Bridge, is a third of a mile long and notable for its bright blue hue that glows in the light at nighttime.
The bridge carries traffic to and from the San Marco and downtown areas, with daily traffic numbers ranging from 20,000 to 30,000 commuters. Its northern end leads into downtown, specifically Ocean Drive and Independent Drive. Its southern end leads into the areas of San Marco and the Southbank, with uninterrupted flow onto I-95. Friendship Fountain is located near its southbound exit by San Marco.
The bridge was constructed in the late 1930s for a July 1941 opening, at a cost of $1.5 million. This makes it the oldest of the seven bridges that still more or less stands in its original form. It was built by Ohio-based Mount Vernon Bridge Company.
Its design is that of a vertical lift bridge, employing the use of trusses. This means that the bridge is designed to lift up vertically to accommodate ships passing underneath it, with the entire road span of the bridge still remaining parallel. When “open”, the clearance underneath the bridge becomes up to 100 feet higher. The bridge spans four lanes and includes a pedestrian sidewalk on each side.
The bridge was given its official name of John T. Alsop Jr. Bridge in 1957. Alsop is the longest-serving mayor in the history of Jacksonville; he served from 1923 to 1937, and then again from 1941 to 1945, for a total of seven terms.
The bridge’s most notable feature is its iconic blue color. When its lights come on at night, the bridge glows a bright royal blue against the backdrop of the St. Johns River.
The John E. Mathews Bridge, constructed in 1953, stands at 1.47 miles long and facilitates traffic between the areas of downtown and Arlington. It’s one of three uniquely colored bridges crossing the St. Johns River, itself having a unique maroon shade.
The bridge carries westbound traffic to downtown Jacksonville; specifically, it provides easier access to the sports district, exiting around TIAA Bank Field. Eastbound traffic coming from downtown continues onto Arlington Expressway.
The bridge was constructed in 1953 at a cost of around $11 million. Its structure is that of a cantilever bridge, employing trusses – much like the Hart Bridge. The cantilever portion of the bridge is less than 800 feet long, with the remainder of its 7,736-foot length being constructed with concrete. Clearance below the bridge is measured at roughly 146 feet. It has a width of 58 feet.
The bridge has gotten a bit of a bad reputation over the years due to its perceived danger. Prior to being renovated a few years ago, the bridge’s center span had steel grating at its base, providing a bumpy, slippery, noisy riding experience that left travelers feeling unsafe crossing the bridge. Another cause of concern is its narrow design, with its steel beams looming almost as closely as adjacent traffic.
Despite improvements, it remains one of Jacksonville’s least popular bridges.
The bridge was named for John E. Mathews, Sr. According to Laura Jo and Kendall Brunson’s book Legendary Locals of Jacksonville, Mathews served as Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court and was also fundamental in establishing funding for the bridge’s construction.
The bridge was originally silver, gaining its distinctive maroon color in the 1980s. It’s rumored to have been painted maroon in honor of the short-lived Jacksonville Bulls, a USFL team that served as a precursor to the city earning an NFL team.