Mechanical Issues, Public Safety Concerns Closes Mathers Bridge to Boating Traffic
By Space Coast Daily // July 5, 2022
Pedestrian and vehicle traffic is allowed but the bridge will not open for boating traffic.
BREVARD COUNTY • INDIAN HARBOUR BEACH, FLORIDA – Public safety concerns and mechanical issues have prompted the closing of Mathers Bridge to boating traffic until further notice.
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.
Pedestrian and vehicle traffic is allowed but, effective immediately, the bridge will not open for boating traffic.
The decision was made after officials from Brevard County Public Works and Brevard County Public Safety met at the site to discuss options, repairs and safety concerns expressed by residents over bridge access to the area for emergency responders.
Smaller boats will still be able to pass under the bridge.
The mechanical issues involve actuators used in opening and closing the bridge.
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.
In the days ahead, the County will continue evaluating mechanical repairs and any other actions that can be taken to facilitate all who navigate under or across the bridge, officials said.
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.