The Sidney Lanier Bridge is often called the longest bridge in Georgia. There may be longer spans over swamps and lowlands, but the Sidney Lanier deserves mention as it is truly a remarkable bridge. On the bay of the Brunswick River, the bridge is in the middle of nowhere. Half way between Jacksonville Florida and Savannah Georgia, Brunswick is a less notable place than the infamous nearby Jekyll Island. Also adjacent to St. Simons Island, US Interstate 95 is almost three miles west of the Sidney Lanier Bridge.
The Sidney Lanier Bridge is incredible. With a roadway 200 ft above sea level, it is nearly as tall as San Francisco’s Golden Gate Bridge. Opened in 2003, the Sidney Lanier has two lanes in each direction, and dozens of cars use the bridge every month. Its modern design is a postcard, and its cable stay towers reach the height of a 50 story skyscraper.
Aside from being a jobs program, the bridge was built because there has always been a bridge there. We couldn’t live without it. It connects downtown Brunwick Georgia with a road to Jekyll Island, and with a direct path to I-95 south, useful for trade with Florida. Brunswick Georgia is the largest port in Georgia for importing automobiles.
Savannah fans will brag about the Talmadge Memorial Bridge, nearly two miles long vs only 1.5 miles for the Lanier. But Lanier’s longest span is 1,250 ft to the Talmadges 1,100 ft. Both bridges have a clearance of 185 ft below the roadway, room for massive ships to pass. Both Bridges are modern looking cable stay bridges, but the Talmadge was completed in 1991, more than a decade before the Lanier.
The Lanier bridge replaced an older box and girder elevating deck draw bridge design, by the same firm that designed the catastrophe struck I-35 Minneapolis-Saint Paul bridge. Age, design, the weight of construction equipment and pigeon dropping all may have led to the I-35 disaster, but a different scenario wove through the history of the older Sidney Lanier Bridge. First, on November 7, 1972 the ship African Neptune struck the older bridge, killing ten. Later in 1987, a Polish freighter struck the bridge, without casualties.
Poet Sidney Lanier fought in the Civil War, was born in Macon, Georgia, was famous for his use of meter, and the relationship of the meters of poetry and music.