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 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 bridgein 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 Everbank Field. Some runners refer to it as the “Green Monster” for this reason.
The bridge carries traffic from downtown to both Atlantic and Beach Blvds, and vice versa. The local private school Episcopal School of Jacksonville sits at the bridge’s southern entrance, while the Shipyards sit at its northern entrance. Traffic heading north on the bridge toward downtown is treated to a beautiful view of Everbank Field. The bridge is the easiest way for residents of the Beaches area to access the city’s sports complexes, including Everbank as well as the Veterans Memorial Arena and Baseball Grounds. Likewise, it’s the easiest way for residents of northern and downtown Jacksonville to access the Beaches area.
As mentioned previously, the Hart Bridge is a cantilever bridge with steel trusses. 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.
The bridge is named after Isaiah D. Hart, who is generally considered to be the founder of Jacksonville. Hart moved from Georgia to an undeveloped area along the St. Johns River known as “Cowford”, and with the help of several locals developed a new city on the north side of the Cowford area that would then be chartered in 1832 as Jacksonville, FL. Hart performed a vast number of jobs around the city, and also operated a plantation on part of the land he had acquired. His son, Ossian B. Hart, was Florida’s tenth governor.
After nearly 50 years, the Hart Bridge remains one of Jacksonville’s smoothest, most reliable bridges for crossing the St. Johns River. Given the highly-debated proposals for redevelopment of the Shipyards area, the bridge is sure to become an even more crucial part of life for Jacksonville residents in the coming years.
Next time, we’ll tackle the Fuller Warren Bridge.