Brevard County Public Works Schedules Openings of Mathers Bridge to Accommodate Boaters
By Space Coast Daily // July 14, 2022
700-foot low-level swing span bridge first opened in 1927, opens and closes as many as 800 times a month
BREVARD COUNTY • INDIAN HARBOUR BEACH, FLORIDA – In response to requests and concerns raised by area boaters, Brevard County Public Works has announced a series of one-hour openings of Mathers Bridge to allow various vessels to be relocated on Banana River.
The 700-foot low-level swing span bridge, first opened in 1927, connects South Tropical Trail on the southern end of Merritt Island to the western end of Banana River Drive in Indian Harbour Beach.
The openings are planned in response to numerous boaters/associations impacted by the closure and those who have requested aid to remove stranded boats either due to insurance reasons, hurricane season preparation or other concerns that require the vessels to be moved from one side of the bridge to the other.
Mathers Bridge was closed to boating traffic on July 2 due to the failure of actuators and motors that allow the 700-foot swing span bridge to open and close.
For safety reasons, the bridge has remained open for motoring traffic only.
“This is a limited offering and at this time will not be expanded for recreational purposes due to the extensive time and resources required to open and close the bridge manually,” said Marc Bernath, director of Brevard County Public Works.
“It will take roughly an hour to open and one hour to close the bridge each time, affecting traffic.”
Here are the scheduled openings:
■ Friday, July 15: 10-11 a.m.
■ Saturday, July 23: 10-11 a.m.
■ Friday, July 29: 10-11 a.m.
■ Tentatively scheduled if needed: Saturday, Aug. 6: 10-11 a.m.
Smaller boats will still be able to pass under the bridge.
All actions taken by the County have been coordinated with the United State Coast Guard.
When fully operational, Mathers Bridge opens and closes as many as 800 times a month to allow taller boats to navigate along the Banana River.
“Our maintenance and repair contractor is lined up during the above times to perform the manual opening efforts with the Brevard County Public Works Road and Bridge crews assisting each time on overtime. Each evolution will begin roughly at 9 a.m. and conclude at noon.
Actuators and motors that allow the bridge to mechanically open and close should be repaired within the next three to four weeks, Bernath said.
Bernath said that during each three-hour period for opening and closing the bridge, Brevard County Fire Rescue will be on standby at Dragon’s Point to respond to any emergency calls that might occur in the surrounding neighborhoods.
While no reservation is required, boaters may contact the Road and Bridge Wickham shop Monday through Friday from 7 a.m. to 3 p.m. to advise on the date they intend to take advantage of one of the scheduled openings. The number to call: is 321-255-4310.
Rare Pony Truss Swing Bridge
Prior to 1926, Merritt Island and the southern end of the Cape Canaveral peninsula were accessible only by boat and John Mathers, a pioneer settler of Merritt Island, initiated the organization of a group of people to finance the construction of a bridge at the southern end of Merritt Island.
Plans for the bridge over the Banana River had been approved in February 1910 and the proposed structure would connect Merritt Island to the southern end of the Cape Canaveral peninsula.
The group financing the new bridge backed out of the project, but Mathers was determined and continued without them. He withdrew $40,000 from his savings and began construction in 1926.
The original design consisted of 24 timber frame approach spans and a swing span, to allow ships to pass through the navigable channel of the Banana River.
The Mathers Toll Bridge formally opened on June 16, 1927, charging 15 cents during the week and 25 cents on the weekend.
Mathers died in 1934 at the age of 73, and ironically, in 1934 his granddaughter and great-granddaughter fell from the bridge and drowned. In October 1944, the State of Florida purchased the bridge for $12,000 and tolls were removed in 1944.
Mathers Bridge is one of only seven remaining pony truss swing bridges in Florida and now consists of the steel truss swing span constructed 1927, modern reinforced concrete slab approach spans constructed in 1982 and a modern control house, also built in 1982.