Jordan Bridge History

Before the South Norfolk Jordan Bridge carried drivers high above the river, the original Jordan Bridge (pictured at left) once stood in her place.

The Jordan Bridge was built at nearly the identical location –Poindexter Street in South Norfolk, west of I-464– across the Southern Branch of the Elizabeth River. A Waddell & Harrington vertical lift drawbridge, it was designed by Harrington, Howard & Ash of Kansas City, Missouri. The construction was planned and financing organized by South Norfolk businessman Carl M. Jordan, who operated Jordan Brothers Lumber Co. with his brother Wallace. Originally known as the Norfolk-Portsmouth Bridge, it was completed at a cost of $1.25 million. It opened on August 24, 1928, as a toll bridge with a ceremony attended by Governor Harry F. Byrd. The bridge was renamed for Carl Jordan many years later. He also served as general manager and executive vice president of the South Norfolk Bridge Commission, Inc., a non-profit corporation organized in 1944 to manage the bridge.

At the time, most felt that the bridge did more to change the map of the Tidewater region than any other development that had taken place since the first settlers landed. Norfolk, being virtually an island, had been connected with Portsmouth only by ferries since the early Colonial days. The Jordan Bridge made possible the first continuous highway between Norfolk, South Norfolk (now a part of Chesapeake) and Portsmouth, and from Richmond to the sea.

After the Bridge Commission’s indebtedness was satisfied in 1977, ownership and maintenance of the bridge was transferred to the City of Chesapeake. 

The Jordan Bridge closed temporarily for repairs in 1994 and was reopened to traffic in December 1995 with a 50-cent toll. The steel lift bridge endured several damaging vessel strikes and began to accumulate a series of escalating traffic restrictions heading into the 21st century. On October 14, 2008, Chesapeake City Council voted to permanently suspend use of the bridge effective November 8, 2008, due to structural deterioration and lack of funding for repairs. Figg Bridge Developers submitted plans for a new privately-funded bridge that also included removal of the original crossing per US Coast Guard regulations, and it was approved unanimously by Council on January 27, 2009.

The modern South Norfolk Jordan Bridge is the result of that effort –it opened to traffic in late October 2012 and remains privately-owned and operated. The new bridge eliminated many of the previous barriers to travel including a fixed concrete design to allow simultaneous vehicle, rail and maritime traffic through the busy river corridor. By elevating the bridge and removing the toll booths, administration and maintenance buildings, a substantial amount of land also was returned to the City to expand the Elizabeth River Park with a $4.3 million renovation and upgrade in 2014. A replica of one of the bridge’s 833 concrete segments is currently displayed in the park, and some historic artifacts from the original Jordan Bridge are held by the City to be displayed in the park for public viewing in the near future.