Acosta Bridge

Acosta Bridge lights in blue

The St. Elmo W. Acosta Bridge, better known today as the Acosta Bridge, is a 1,645-foot bridge that spans the St. Johns River, connecting Downtown Jacksonville’s Southbank and Northbank along State Road 13. The Acosta Bridge connects drivers, pedestrians, cyclists and Skyway passengers from Prudential Drive on the Southbank to the Brooklyn and Riverside areas along Riverside Avenue, and to the LaVilla and Northbank Core areas of Downtown.
The Acosta Bridge features the JTA’s dynamic LED lighting system, which the Authority uses to highlight different holidays, awareness campaigns, events and other recognitions throughout the year.

A First for Jacksonville

Built from 1904 to 1921, the St. Johns River Bridge opened as the first automobile and pedestrian bridge to span the St. Johns River in Downtown. The three-lane steel vertical-lift bridge featured a yellow center section that raised for passing vessels on the river. It was nicknamed the “Yellow Monster” because the section would often get stuck during operations causing traffic delays. Passengers paid tolls to cross until 1940.

In 1949, the St. Johns River Bridge was renamed the St. Elmo W. Acosta Bridge in honor of former Jacksonville City Commissioner St. Elmo W. Acosta, who championed the bridge’s construction along with pedestrian and vehicle access.

The bridge closed from 1991-1994 and was replaced with the six-lane bridge we see today. The box girder design utilized pre-stressed concrete and is twice the width of the original. During the late-1990s, the JTA added two Skyway monorail tracks along the center of the bridge as the Automated People Mover system expanded to the Southbank with three new stations.

Today, the Acosta Bridge stands 81 feet above the St. Johns River at its highest point, has separated pedestrian lanes and room for cyclists. It is maintained by the Florida Department of Transportation, along with the JTA which maintains the Skyway tracks and associated lighting systems.

Lighting Up Downtown

When the Skyway opened over the bridge in 1999, the JTA added blue neon lights, adding a new element to the Downtown Jacksonville Skyline. The blue color became one of Downtown Jacksonville’s trademark elements, along with the Main Street Bridge and Friendship Fountain.

Unfortunately, by 2014, the aging light system began to deteriorate, creating a safety hazard for the Skyway system. As the need for repairs mounted, the JTA made the difficult decision to turn those lights off. The JTA Board of Directors began to examine new technologies and strategies to update the Skyway.

The Board was presented with a new plan that would not only bring lights back to the Acosta Bridge, but transform the bridge with a state-of-the-art, dynamic LED lighting system featuring hundreds of new color combinations.

In 2018, the JTA Board approved a $2.6 million project to remove the old system and replace it with the new LED system. Construction began in 2019 with Miller Electric Company, RS&H and local lighting manufacturers, lighting control integrators and project support companies. It was completed one month ahead of schedule and under budget.

The JTA began testing small sections of the system in early 2020 to troubleshoot brightness, hues and other elements required for full operation. Jacksonville got its first taste of the full lighting system on June 19th, 2020, with a red, white and blue color scheme in recognition of Juneteenth.

The JTA turned the system on for good in July 2020, first to coincide with the city of Jacksonville’s Independence Day fireworks show, and then for normal operation.

The Acosta Bridge lights are on each evening from dusk to dawn, with slight schedule adjustments throughout the year.

The system features approximately 4,000 linear feet of LED lights, split up into 48-foot sections that are programmable for hundreds of color combinations. The JTA maintains the historic “Acosta Blue” color for normal operation. As a safety precaution, light displays remain static when traffic is open on the bridge. During closed events, the lights can perform a number of different movements and sequences to create a spectacular light show.

Monthly Light Schedule

Each month, the JTA compiles a schedule to recognize different holidays, monthly awareness campaigns, special events, college and professional football games and other observances.

The schedule is reviewed by the JTA and published each month. The JTA does not accept sponsorship money from private businesses, nor does the JTA accept or promote requests from political candidates or causes.