The U.S. Coast Guard announced last week that it would be implementing a new opening schedule to allow larger boats to pass Mathers Bridge, which traverses the Banana River connecting Indian Harbour Beach to the stately residential neighborhood of South Tropical Trail on the southern tip of Merritt Island. The iconic Mathers Bridge was built in 1927 by John Mathers, then moved to its present location in 1952, with improvements made to the bridge and control house in 2007. The 700-foot structure is one of the few remaining low-level “swing bridges” remaining in Florida, with the old Titusville swing bridge being replaced in 2011. Instead of lifting vertically like a drawbridge, a span of the bridge swings open mechanically to allow watercraft to pass.
The matter of shifting from an on-demand opening system to scheduled openings had stirred up controversy for many months, pitting boaters against some of the South Tropical Trail residents who are weary of getting stuck waiting for the bridge to close – especially on weekends when there is more boat traffic. Residents complained that boaters called to have the bridge opened at certain times and then were late, or at times a no-show. Boaters claimed the proposed opening schedule on the hour and half hour would inconvenience them and cause a bottleneck.
The Coast Guard held hearings, but boaters objected to what they saw as inadequate public notice. So at the boaters’ request, the Coast Guard extended the time for public comment to be filed before a decision would be handed down. In the end, a compromise was struck, keeping the on-demand system for part of the year and establishing a set schedule the rest of the year.
Starting at 6 a.m. this past Monday, according to an announcement by the Brevard County Board of County Commissioners. “the bridge will open for vessels requesting passage on the hour and half hour, from 6 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday. On Friday, Saturday and any federal holidays, 24 hours a day, the bridge will open for vessels on the hour and half hour.”
That schedule will remain in effect through Aug. 4.
For more information, please contact Brevard County Road and Bridges at 321-455-1389.