The Sisters Creek Bridge replacement on Heckscher Drive (SR 105) in Northeast Jacksonville replaces a bascule bridge built in 1952 and in need of replacement. The new bridge will be a high-rise bridge with a 65-foot vertical clearance that will eliminate traffic delays due to bridge openings for boats. Additionally, the high-rise bridge will eliminate a highway/marine conflict during hurricane evacuations.
The addition of wider sidewalks for pedestrians and bicycle lanes will be an enhancement for area residents. The project will also provide a storm water runoff drainage system that will capture rainwater from the bridge and convey it via ditches to new ponds located within the project limits.
Adjacent properties include the Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve and the Nassau River St. Johns Aquatic Preserve, Sisters Creek Marina as well as BAE Systems Southeast Shipyards, where ship repairs, maintenance, overhaul, conversion and marine fabrication activities take place.
The project team has had extensive communication with surrounding businesses and industry, coordinating and mitigating any impacts to businesses.
The Timucuan Ecological and Historic Preserve is perhaps the most captivating entity in the area.
The Preserve’s visitor center is located at the Fort Caroline National Memorial, across the St. Johns River from the project.
The visitor center hosts the exhibit, “Where the Waters Meet,” which showcases the richness of the northeast Florida environment and is part of the National Park Service.
According to the Park Service, French explorer Jean Ribault was impressed by the first native peoples he encountered in Florida. The Timucuans under Chief Saturiwa, who met the French at the mouth of the River of May in 1562, were one of a number of Timucuan-speaking tribes who inhabited central and north Florida and southeastern Georgia. They were the final stage of a culture whose way of life had remained essentially unchanged for more than 1,000 years.
Timucuans hold an early place in the European consciousness of Native Americans. French colonist Jacques le Moyne’s sketches of Timucuan ceremonies and customs provided Europeans with some of their first views of Native Americans. Franciscan priest Francisco Pareja’s translation of a set of catechisms and confessionals from Spanish into Timucuan in 1612 was the first translation involving a Native American language.
FDOT conducts extensive archaeological surveys prior to construction to identify the location or presence of historic Native American cultures and to assess transportation impacts on these sites. The first option considered is to avoid or minimize any involvement with these important sites. If they cannot be avoided consultation is undertaken with current federally recognized Florida tribal representatives to address their concerns and treat these areas with the sensitivity and respect they deserve. This process ranges from the minimal to the extensive such as placement of fill over a known site and the corresponding eliminate of any excavation in this area to actual excavation, recordation and artifact recovery.
All work is performed by professional archaeologists that meet the standards set by the Department of Interior. The work at Sisters Creek includes such an archaeological component. For this project, archaeological monitoring is performed during excavation in certain areas due to the vast resources known to be located in the region.