March 4, 2000
In the downtown area of Daytona Beach in Florida’s Volusia County, construction began on a new and unique segmental bridge to carry U.S. Highway 92 over the Halifax River (part of the Intracoastal Waterway along the Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico coasts of the United States). This structure was the third one called Broadway Bridge to be built at that location. These bridges most likely owe their shared name to the fact that they have all served as connections to what was originally Broadway Avenue (now known as International Speedway Boulevard) on the beach side of the city.
The first Broadway Bridge was constructed in 1912 after Michael Sholtz, president of Central Florida Railway Company, had petitioned the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers for a bridge in that vicinity of Daytona Beach. Sholtz’s goal was to use the new concrete bridge for his company’s electric streetcar system serving the region.
By 1947, the Florida State Road Department (predecessor of today’s Florida Department of Transportation) had concluded that the existing Broadway Bridge should be replaced by a four-lane drawbridge. The second Broadway Bridge was officially opened in 1948. It was dedicated in honor of both Robert T. Carleton, an employee of the Florida State Road Department; and Elmer Blank, Volusia County Commissioner. (While the name “Carleton-Blank Bridge” subsequently appeared on state maps, many people continued to instead refer to the structure as the Broadway Bridge.) The overall length of this bridge was 1,777 feet (541.6 meters).
About a half-century later, the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) assessed that an even bigger version of the Broadway Bridge was needed to better accommodate vessels sailing under the structure. FDOT contracted with the international firm Figg Engineering Group to design the new bridge. The Tampa-based Misener Marine Contractors was chosen to build the bridge according to the Figg Engineering Group’s plans.
Nearly 17 months after construction on it had begun, the current Broadway Bridge was opened to a great deal of fanfare. This structure is 65 feet (19.9 meters) in height and 3,008 feet (917 meters) in length. The third Broadway Bridge, along with facilitating the passage of maritime traffic and providing an improved means for motorists to travel over the water en route to the beach, was also promoted for its potential value to the local economy. “The bridge has become a major feature in attracting and convincing players to be involved in the redevelopment efforts,” noted Suzanne Kuhn, the economic development administrator for Daytona Beach, in an article appearing in Roads & Bridges magazine in September 2002.
The most unique aspects of the current Broadway Bridge, however, are all of the mosaics that have been painted on it. As Roads & Bridges reported, “When the Florida DOT put the new bridge up for bids, the agency expected to get a fast, efficient way of getting along State Route 92 from the city of Daytona Beach over the Halifax River, also known as the Intracoastal Waterway, to the famous beaches. It did not expect to get a linear art gallery featuring wildlife native to the area.”
That “linear art gallery” resulted from a community-based meeting that FDOT had convened during the planning process for the bridge. This meeting brought together area residents, business owners, municipal and county government employees, and others to provide input on the newest Broadway Bridge and what it should look like. Among other things, the majority of individuals attending the meeting agreed on some type of ecological theme for the structure. To reflect this theme, FODT arranged for artwork depicting various animals in that region of the Sunshine State to be created for the bridge.
The mosaics that have been painted near the bridge landings portray sea creatures such as dolphins, manatees, sailfish, sharks, turtles, and whales. The Florida panther and other land animals are featured in paintings further up the bridge. A mosaic featuring bald eagles can be seen at the Broadway Bridge’s highest point. Other birds depicted on the bridge include ospreys and egrets. The Orlando Sentinel reported during the summer of 2001, “On the [Broadway] Bridge, people are driving more slowly and can appreciate the pictures of dolphins and whales against striking blue backgrounds, the ornate railings and the black street lamps in the center.”
For more information on Daytona Beach’s Broadway Bridge and both of its predecessors, please check out https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Broadway_Bridge_(Daytona_Beach)