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”.
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, with Jacksonville Landing located just west of the bridge’s exit. Its southern end leads into the areas of San Marco and 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, with others having since been reconstructed. 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. The overall design of the bridge, specifically its use of trusses, is now considered somewhat antiquated; however, it clearly has not been enough of an issue to affect the bridge’s long lifespan. When “open”, the clearance underneath the bridge becomes up to 100 feet higher. The bridge spans four lanes, and includes a pedestrian sidewalk lane 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 was named in Alsop’s honor shortly before his death in 1958. However, aside from a sign placed at the bridge’s south entrance, the bridge is always referred to as Main Street Bridge both by natives and on other signage, carrying Alsop’s name in official capacities only.
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.
Last year, the bridge underwent renovations priced at just over $11 million. The project focused on upgrading metal barriers to protect the integrity of the bridge in the event of vehicle crashes. The sidewalks were also patched up to make for better pedestrian access.
The Main Street Bridge, fresh off recent renovations, is now over 70 years old and continues to serve commuters in the downtown, San Marco, and Southbank areas as well as others throughout the city. While it may not be Jacksonville’s biggest, newest, or fanciest bridge, it is without a doubt the most recognized.
Next: Mathews Bridge. Stay tuned!