LED lights that can be programmed in any color will soon span the Acosta Bridge, replacing neon tubes installed 20-plus years ago, the JTA said.

The 29-year-old Acosta Bridge will soon be tripping the lights fantastic once again.


And it won’t just be blue lights like before, according to the Jacksonville Transportation Authority. The neon lights have been out since 2015.


The authority fired up a new 48-foot section of LED lights on the bridge Tuesday night, testing its range of colors as well as seeing how well they appeared to viewers along the St. Johns riverbank, JTA spokesman David Cawton II said.


The test followed one done Sept. 24 on a shorter 24-foot section for brightness, and kicks off full installation of 2,500 feet of lights on the 1,645-foot long bridge.


"We anticipate having those lights done by the end of June and be lit July 4," Cawton said. "It’s a very cool system and we can integrate with the city and any production it is doing. They can do any function. We can match up to Jaguars teal or Florida-Georgia weekend; all sorts of opportunities there."


Named for City Councilman St. Elmo W. Acosta, the current arching concrete span replaced the original 1921 steel bridge in 1991. In 1999 the JTA added blue lights on the Skyway Express lanes that run down the middle. The Skyway is an automated 2.5-mile, elevated monorail that connects downtown to the Southbank, and is due for a redesign with autonomous electric commuter capsules that will also run on Bay Street.


The Acosta Bridge’s blue lights were joined in January 2005 by colorful lighting on the Hart, Main Street and Fuller Warren bridges, with former Mayor John Peyton firing them up just weeks before Super Bowl XXXIX. Peyton had persuaded the First Coast Metropolitan Planning Organization to earmark $3 million in federal funding for the bridge lighting, and downtown’s bridges joined the Dames Point bridge's ornamental illumination.


But in 2014 the Acosta’s neon lights began having problems, with parts of its span not working. JTA said the lighting technology was old, with some maintenance issues, and would have cost $1.6 million to $2.1 million to be fixed then. With no available funds five years ago, JTA shut the lights off.


The JTA board of directors rectified that funding issue in December 2018 when it approved $2.6 million to remove the Acosta’s old system and replace them with LED lights.


"The actual infrastructure there was pretty old, so they had to remove all that," Cawton said. "This was the first test done with all of that removed and shows a bigger section this time."


The rest of the new lighting will be installed over the next few months, he said.


Dan Scanlan: (904) 359-4549