Since the early 1920’s, there have always been bridges in Jacksonville. Without these river-crossing beauties, Jacksonville would not be as connected as it is today. Without them, we would all be taking ferries to traverse the waterways of our region. Here is some of the history of each of the bridges that tells a little story about how each one has impacted downtown Jacksonville.
The very first bridge for automobile traffic was built in 1921 to connect North Jacksonville to South Jacksonville. The St. Johns River Bridge, now known as the Acosta Bridge, took the place of the ferry that had carried cars across the St. Johns River for years. The golden-yellow lift bridge was replaced with the current cement bridge in 1993.
The most iconic bridge in downtown Jacksonville is the Main Street Bridge. The bridge’s official name is the John T. Alsop, Jr. Bridge, but it is better known by the name Main Street Bridge, for obvious reasons. Alsop served as the mayor of Jacksonville twice; once from 1923-1937 and again from 1941-1945. This bright blue bridge is the oldest remaining automobile bridge left in Jacksonville, built in 1941. At night, this illuminated bridge stands against the shining skyline of downtown Jacksonville.
Jacksonville’s most notorious bridge, the Matthews Bridge, opened in 1953. It was named for the man who helped secure its funding, John E. Matthews, a state legislator and Chief Justice of the Florida Supreme Court in 1955. The bridge was built to give commuters from Arlington a more direct route downtown. Drivers continuously complained about the slippery surface that made crossing the bridge quite difficult. Finally, the city replaced the steel grate surface with stable concrete in 2007.
One of the most important, and certainly the most traveled, downtown bridges is the Fuller Warren Bridge that carries I-95 over the St. Johns River. The original structure opened in 1954, but was a burden to interstate traffic because of the toll at the beginning of the bridge. It is named for Florida governor and Jacksonville City Council member, Fuller Warren. The bridge was redesigned and in 2002 the bridge that now hosts the weekly Riverside Arts Market was open to traffic.
The last downtown bridge to open was the Isaiah David Hart Bridge, or Hart Bridge. It’s moniker was given in honor of Isaiah Hart, the founder of Jacksonville. This “Green Monster” was envisioned to connect downtown to the beaches via an expressway, but the ambitious project fell short. Still, about 47,000 cars cross it each day in and out of downtown.
These bridges serve as a unique and colorful backdrop to the Jacksonville skyline and each one is an important relic in the development of Jacksonville as a whole.