MAR- 6-02 WED 11:37 AM
renovating the Bridge of Lions would serve the purpose n historic k 1,1s, .
prese-vationists who have adopted "Saving Our Bridge" as a paign, and have
convinced influential politicians and Florida Department of Tr sportation officials that V/ft
the St. Augustine community strongly favors restoration of thi, 1927 Bridge of Lions.
Members of "Citizens for A Safe New Bridge"-hamg that a safe new
bridge is necessary because dramatically increased traffic and larger automobiles have
made the current bridge unsafe. Those who favor a new bridge recognize and appreciate
the architectural beauty of the Bridge of Lions and its importance to the historic character
of St. Augustine. However, the realities of an increased population and tourist visitation
have crowded the Bridge of Lions to over twice its design capacity. It is substandard n
terms of current safety provisions, and the Citizens for A Safe New Bridge argue that a
new, architecturally similar two-lane bridge could be constructed, and although
appearing nearly identical to the old bridge, it would include wider, standard traffic
Slanes, 10-foot safety lanes, and a protected passageway for pedestrians, wheelchairs, and
cyclists. A new bridge would also be safer for marine traffic, having a US Coast Guard
standard 125-foot horizontal opening as opposed to the current 76-foot opening.
The main issue is: which system best serves the citizens of St. Augustine for the
next 50 years? Renovation and restoration costs are approximately equal at $46 million.
The decision will affect residents of and visitors to St Augustine at least 50 years, and it
is important that all of the facts and implications are fully understood before the work is
The Comprehensive Plan of the City of St. Augustine contemplates a two lane
bridge connecting downtown St. Augustine with Anastasia Island via SR A 1A.
Knowing that the existing bridge has deteriorated badly, the Florida Department
of Transportation prepared a Draft Environmental Impact Statement in 1998, which
identified four options for correcting the problems of maintaining a viable traffic
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MAR- 6-02 WED 11:37 AM
connection between downtown St. Augustine and Anastasia Island. The report outlined
four alternatives described below:
I-A Continue to repair the existing bridge
I-B Perform an extensive rehabilitation of the old bridge
II-A-Construct a new bridge immediately to the south of the existing bridge
II-B-Construct a new bridge in the location of the old bridge
The Citizens for A Safe New Bridge contend that a thorough study of all the facts
clearly indicate that alternative II-B is the only reasonable solution. You can connect to
the official FDOT web site for more information at WWW
As early as the 1820s, tourists were chartering small boats for excursions to
Anastasia Island. The first regular transportation to the island came around 1885 when
the St. Augustine and South Beach Railway began running a feny from a dock at the end
of King Street across the bay to a landing from which a small railroad with horse-drawn
cars ran across the mud flats to the lighthouse and South Beach.
In 1885, the railway company built a flat wooden bridge with a swing span from
King Street to a point on the island just south of the present bridge. This .was a toll
bridge, with carriages to take passengers between Anastasia Island and the train depot.
After major renovation in 1904 to permit automobile traffic, the bridge passed into the
hand of the St. Johns Light and Power Company, which ran an electric trolley line across
it and part way down the island.
By 1917 the wooden bridge was again outmoded and had become an eyesore on
the bayfront. For the next six years, county commissioners struggled to find revenue to
build a new bridge. The burgeoning economy of the early 1920s evidently provided the
financial stimulus to construct a permanent bridge of high quality, instead of an
inexpensive one not much different from its predecessor. The prestigious Baltimore firm
of J. E.Greiner won the engineering contract and the P.T. Cox Company of New York the
MAR- 6-02 WED 11:38 AM P.
Work began on July 20, 1925, only to be slowed by material shortages. It was not
completed and opened for traffic until February 26, 1927, at a cost of $911,000. The
bridge got its name from two marble lions donated by Dr. Andrew Anderson that were
placed at the west end of the bridge. The matching pair was modeled in Carrera marble
by F. Romanelli after those at the Loggia dei Lanzi In Florence, Italy.
St. Johns County contained fewer than 20,000 inhabitants at the time the bridge
was constructed. The population now stands at about 130,000. Annual visitation to St.
Augustine numbered no more than 75,000 in 1927. The city now receives more than 2
million each year. The average automobile in 1927 weighed little more than 1,000
pounds. The average vehicle today is more than twice as heavy. Probably no more than
several hundred cars crossed the bridge each day in the first years after it was built. Not
until the 1950s was AIA widened along the bayfront and fully incorporated into an east
coast highway system. Today some 22,000 cars cross the bridge each day.
Busses and large trucks have been prohibited from crossing the Bridge of Lions
since the early 1980s. Major repairs have been made on several occasions since then to
shore up deteriorating pylons, weakened by the scouring effects of sea currents that tear
at the exposed wood supports. 4 5
Problems with the bridge support system began surfacing as long ago bthe early K
1970s. In 198 1, FDOT engineers, conducting a routine investigation of the bridge,
discovered critical structural defects. The initial suggestion by the FDOT to replace the
bridge with a new structure aroused a chorus of opposition. The department accordingly
undertook only what it called "effective repairs." But the problems and increasingly
frequent bridge closings to permit repair work continued, leading the City Commission in
1989 to request a new and detailed study of rthe bridge's condition. Not long thereafter
the FDOT began development of its Draft Environmental Impact Statement, presenting
options for correcting the many problems the bridge presents. The report was issued in
The St. Augustine City Commission has voted in favor of replacing the bridge
with a new, architecturally similar structure, immediately to the south of the present
bridge. Throughout all of more than a decade since the FDOT raised the issue of repair or
replacement, there have been numerous meetings to share information with the public.
MAR- 6-02 WED 11:38 AMh P. 4
Finally, on _, the FDOT announced that it had decided to adopt Option I-B,
calling for renovation of the existing structure, despite the vote by the St. Augustine City
Commission favoring construction of a Safe New Bridge.
After a thorough study of all of the issues concerning the Bridge of Lions problem
and evaluating the relative importance of historic preservation, safety, and the character
of St. Augustine, members of the "Citizens for A Safe New Bridge" have concluded that
Option II-B of the FDOT Draft Environmental Impact Study is the only sensible solution
to curing the deficiencies that exist with the deteriorating bridge.
We believe that the heart of our position is a concern for safety, and the
community's need for an efficient, reliable, and architecturally pleasing link between
downtown St. Augustine and Anastasia Island. We appreciate the concerns of those
citizens who wish to protect the old Bridge of Lions for fear that the Department of
Transportation, if allowed to design a new bridge, would employ a modern design that
would detract from the historic character of our city. We do not believe this.
We believe that our governmental and civic leaders should join together in their
insistence that the new safe bridge be designed ss-to replicate the existing design. The I
renderings presented in the FDOT Study certainly indicate that such a structure is not
only possible, but is their intention.
We believe that it is a reasonable assumption that the challenge to the FDOT to
design and construct a safe span for St. Augustine's new Bridge of Lions would result in
their very finest work.
One day the new Bridge of Lions will be seventy-five years old, and our hope is
that during its life, it will serve its safe transportation mission while gracing the skyline of
the Nation's Oldest City.