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Jacksonville: City to light downtown bridges

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April 2, 2004

JTA to light downtown bridges

By DAVID BAUERLEIN

The Times-Union

Bright lights, bridge city.

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority board this week approved a $1.2 million plan for lighting three downtown bridges in time for next year's Super Bowl, showcasing the St. Johns River for about 100,000 visitors.

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The Fuller Warren, Main Street and Harts bridges will be lit for the Super Bowl. The Jacksonville Transportation Authority has hired Reynolds, Smith & Hills to design the lighting that will become a permanent feature of the skyline. Images provided by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority --------------------------------------------------

The JTA expects to finish the lighting project by December, a schedule that overcomes some doubts about whether the work could realistically be done before Jacksonville hosts the February game.

The Main Street bridge, which disappears now beneath the cover of night, will have blue floodlights that illuminate the bridge's deep shade of blue. The green Hart Bridge also will bask in the glow of lights that shine on the bridge's metal frame. The concrete Fuller Warren Bridge will have additional lighting for the row of piers that rise up from the river and hold up that eight-lane span.

The lighting project was an idea in search of funding until November, when the First Coast Metropolitan Planning Organization agreed to earmark $1.6 million. The money will come from federal transportation dollars that can only be used on projects like sidewalks and landscaping, not road-widening.

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Main Street bridge Images provided by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority --------------------------------------------------

Aage Schroder, secretary of the Florida Department of Transportation's Northeast Florida district, said he was skeptical at first about whether bridge lighting could be done by the Super Bowl.

"Under normal circumstances, it would be very difficult," said Schroder, who sits on the JTA board. "It wouldn't have happened if it hadn't been for the JTA. The FDOT couldn't have made that happen."

The state Transportation Department owns the bridges, but the JTA is in charge of designing the lighting scheme and installation. Reynolds, Smith & Hills was hired to do the work.

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Harts bridge Images provided by the Jacksonville Transportation Authority --------------------------------------------------

Currently, the only downtown bridge with decorative lighting is the Acosta Bridge with a necklace of lanterns and a bright strip of blue neon running its length.

The Main Street bridge will be entirely lit in a blue glow that will complement the color of the Acosta's blue neon, said JTA Deputy Executive Director Matt Dominy.

"It just really jumps out," Dominy said while showing JTA board members a slide show with illustrations of how the bridges will appear. "It's pretty spectacular."

The lights will be a permanent part of the downtown skyline, not just an attraction for the Super Bowl festivities.

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I like them all, especially the Hart Bridge's. They might as well light up the Matthews Bridge too, since the other 4 downtown bridges will have lights. I guess this is one good thing to come out of hosting the super bowl, because without it, this idea would have never been funded.

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They're here for good. Even when Super Bowl is long gone, the citizens can still enjoy it. And I agree that the Mathews should be lit, because it would add a nice red tint to the night sky.

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