One of the most distinct features of the First Coast area is the St. Johns River and the seven bridges that run across it to connect various parts of the city. We will profile each of these bridges, in a series titled “Seven Bridges”.
Constructed in its current form at the turn of the century, the Fuller Warren Bridge carries daily traffic across the St. Johns River between the areas of Riverside and San Marco.
Local residents 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 St. exit., and onward to northern Jacksonville and the I-10 interchange. Eastbound traffic is carried from Riverside across to San Marco, accessible via the San Marco exit that lets off onto Gary St. next to Nemours Children’s Hospital. It also allows I-95 traffic to continue into the Southside area.
The original version of the Fuller Warren Bridge opened in 1954. Back then, it had only four lanes in total, and was also a toll bridge until the city abolished tolls in the late ’80s. It’s hard to imagine today’s Fuller Warren Bridge with a toll booth, as traffic on the bridge is often at enough of a stand-still already. The old bridge dealt with a fair amount of traffic as well, to the point that it eventually began to fall apart during the ’90s.
As a result, the bridge would be replaced by the new Fuller Warren Bridge that we’re familiar with today. It was designed by HNTB Corporation, a national architecture firm that was also responsible for fixing the damaged Mathews Bridge a few years ago. 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. A former member of the Ku Klux Klan, Warren had a complex relationship with racism; he disavowed the Klan following World War II, but would later attempt to run for a second term as governor on a platform of preserving segregation. He served on the Jacksonville city council for six years prior to becoming governor.
In the past few years, the idea of expanding the Fuller Warren Bridge has been discussed. Such a project would add an extra lane on both sides, and could also include a dedicated pedestrian and bike lane safely isolated from vehicular traffic. Local residents have argued against the proposal, however. Construction on the I-95 Overland Bridge project has already been an ongoing annoyance for commuters, and an extended construction period on one of the city’s busiest bridges could have even more detrimental impacts on traffic.
The Fuller Warren Bridge is certainly not as flashy as some of Jacksonville’s more colorful bridges, but it is nonetheless one of the most integral parts of the city’s infrastructure, and inarguably one of the busiest traffic areas in Jacksonville.
Stay tuned for the seventh and final edition of “Seven Bridges”, where we discuss the infamous Buckman Bridge.