Five of Jacksonville's seven iconic bridges across the St. Johns River are located Downtown. Of those, perhaps the Main Street Bridge (as it is best known by the locals) is the most recognizable. The bridge, which is part of U.S. 1, is a vertical lift drawbridge, meaning that the entire middle section is actually lifted upward in one large segment to allow tall masted boats to pass under it. The blue steel lift towers (freshly repainted in 2004) add a touch of contrast to the city's glassy skyline. The bridge itself is now becoming an internationally recognized symbol of Jacksonville as its likeness has actually been incorporated into the Super Bowl XXXIX logo (Super Bowl XXXIX will be played in Jacksonville in 2005). In addition to carrying four lanes of traffic, the bridge's sidewalks are also popular with joggers and walkers.
The Mathews Bridge (a.k.a. the "red bridge") is one of the high bridges that connect Downtown to the city's booming southeastern neighborhoods and beaches.
Once you've crested the top, the view heading westbound into Downtown unfolds in an aerial panorama of the skyline fronted by ALLTEL Stadium and the Sports Complex. Heading eastbound, the horizon is dotted with a sprinkling of office buildings in the Deerwood/Tinseltown area and in the Regency area as well as the Dames Point Bridge and cargo cranes from the port. Occasionally, if you time it right, you can also see the top of a Carnival or Celebrity cruise ship in port just to the left of the Dames Point Bridge.
While the Jacksonville area has more than 200 bridges, the highest and most beautiful is the Dames Point Bridge. Built in the 1980s, this magnificent structure is the longest concrete cable-stayed bridge in the U.S. Six lanes wide, two miles long and supported by 21 miles of steel cables, the bridge looks like two sailboats rising 175 feet above the St. Johns River. Part of the city's beltway, the Dames Point Bridge connects the very popular eastern neighborhoods of Arlington, East Arlington and Regency south of the river with the city's Northside and port areas.
In the daytime the Acosta Bridge looks like a typical causeway bridge; however, at a closer glance, it actually boasts two unique features. First of all, the bridge, which replaced a previous bridge by the same name, was built in conjunction with the city's Skyway. The center median of the bridge is actually a Skyway track, which allows the system to operate on both sides of the river. The bridge's second unique feature becomes very obvious at night when its center Skyway median is illuminated in a brilliant purplish arc. When viewed from the interstate, this purple neon arc stretches at an angle across the base of the Northbank skyline, adding to the city's slick, ultramodern appearance. Like the Main Street Bridge, it too has sidewalks that are popular with joggers.
The most non-descript looking of Jacksonville's major bridges, the eight-lane Fuller Warren is also the most heavily traveled. That's because it carries Interstate 95 across the St. Johns River. The many drivers who traverse this bridge also get a spectacular view of both the Northbank and Southbank sides of the the Jacksonville skyline.
Would you believe that before the current bridge was built there stood a four-lane drawbridge in its place! And for many years (until the 1980s) that four-lane drawbridge carrying a major interstate highway also had toll booths -- what a bottleneck! Fortunately, today's bridge is a vast improvement. It's eight lanes of smooth-riding scenic vistas -- a far cry from its predacessor.
Prepare yourself for crossing the St. John river over big bridges. This is the one in the Arlington Expressway.