Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bridging the Gap Wasn't Easy

Newspaper article The Florida Times Union

Bridging the Gap Wasn't Easy

Article excerpt

Eastbound lanes on the Mathews Bridge closed at night last week.

The grating atop the 46-year-old bridge is being repaired. The work is supposed to take six to eight months, and I am annoyed.

Four other bridges cross the river minutes away. I expect I will use them all, until I find one of my liking.

One wonders, especially when one's favorite bridge is closed, how anyone could have objected to any of these vital, crowded arteries being built. Yet all were maligned from conception to fruition.

Even the first one.

The arguments have been the same, differing only in degree:

Bridge to Nowhere.

Too expensive.


Nobody'll use it.

Benefits only landowning Fat Cats.

Seventy-two years ago this month, Jaxons fought, strenuously, over the first public crossing of the St. Johns here.

The newspapers said a bond election July 10, 1917, for what became the Acosta Bridge was too close to call.

Mayor John W. Martin's office added fuel to the fire by issuing permits to both sides for pre-election "monster meetings" at the same time, in the same place.

This caused considerable confrontation and consternation and opened a whole new can of worms to what already was a worm-fest.

The bridge question had been around since about 1904.

St. Elmo "Chic" Acosta, the bridge's highest-profile booster, said he began thinking seriously about the crossing between March and September of that year.

"I suppose this [bridge idea] ran in my veins," Acosta recalled years later.

"My grandfather, Antonia Alvarez, when governor general for Spain over Florida, located at St. Augustine, considered building a bridge at Cow Ford, so my grandmother told me when I was a little boy."

(The Acosta lineage dates to Pedro Menendez de Aviles, founder of St. Augustine.)

The question of a river crossing divided Jacksonville for years before pressure from motorists brought it to a head and the $950,000 bond issue was put to the people.

The issue was championed by a self-styled "Little Band of Patriots," some incidentally having little plots of patriotic property on the yonder side of the river, a fact seized upon by the opponents. …

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