JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Whether you cross them every day or ever so often, Jacksonville’s seven major bridges over the St. Johns River are a crucial part of many daily commutes and life in the River City.
Thursday’s repair of a concrete finger joint on the Buckman Bridge certainly won’t be the last restoration conducted by Florida Department of Transportation crews, prompting the News4Jax I-TEAM to dig digger into the overall condition of Jacksonville’s bridges.
“Historically, our bridges have a grade of like a B compared to a C nationally. We have a lower number of structurally deficient bridges than other states of the country,” said Kathleen Ruvarac, vice president of the Florida Section of the American Society of Civil Engineers.
Ruvarac said what the Acosta, Buckman, Dames Point, Fuller Warren, Hart, Main Street and Mathews bridges all have in common is that they are made from either concrete, steel or both -- which inherently deteriorate from the load of the vehicles it supports.
“Those loads are transmitted from the bridge to the roadway at the approach slab, so we also look for deterioration or damages at the embankments, at the approach slab, at the wingwalls, at the end of the bridges at the end vents,” Ruvarac said.
The I-TEAM reviewed data from FDOT and the federal government’s National Bridge Inventory database on Jacksonville’s seven key bridges and found the following:
Built in 1970 and reconstructed in 1995, the Buckman Bridge’s overall condition is rated as “fair,” with minor deterioration noted on the substructures in a 2019 inspection.
Built in 1989, the Dames Point Bridge’s condition is also rated as “fair” in the federal database, with an average daily traffic count of more than 77,000 people a day.
The Fuller Warren Bridge, which was built in 2003, is rated as in “good” condition. On average, 170,000 people travel the bridge every day.
The Acosta Bridge was built in 1991, with 33,000 cars, and trucks crossing it a day. According to the federal database, the southbound site was rated “good,” with the northbound side getting a “fair” rating.
The Main Street Bridge handles the least amount of traffic. Built in 1941, 13,700 people travel it every day, according to the state. It’s rated as “fair” in the federal database. But, according to the state, it’s functionally obsolete, meaning its design is outdated.
The Mathews Bridge, which was built in 1953, earned the rating of “fair,” but is also considered “functionally obsolete” by the state.
And the Hart Bridge, which was built in 1967, is rated as “fair,” and it’s the third bridge labeled “functionally obsolete” by FDOT.
Ruvarac said that overall, FDOT does a good job maintaining Florida bridges compared to other states.
“In comparison of other states, the Florida Department of Transportation has a very good record of, not only keeping our bridges in good condition, but the inspection of bridges,” Ruvarac said.
Ruvarac also noted the Buckman Bridge is roughly at about 80% of its life span, as most bridges are replaced after they are between 50 and 75 years old.