Rainbow Lights Returning To Acosta Bridge For Pride Month But Questions Remain

Jun 9, 2021

The colors of the rainbow will be returning to Downtown Jacksonville’s Acosta Bridge Wednesday night in celebration of LGBTQ Pride Month after they were temporarily shut off Tuesday at the request of the Florida Department of Transportation after the agency said it received “several complaints regarding the color scheme.”

The Jacksonville Transportation Authority (JTA), which announced the color scheme Tuesday, said it was complying with the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) when it switched from its planned rainbow color scheme to solid blue on Tuesday night.

“We have received several complaints regarding the color scheme on the Acosta Bridge,” FDOT District 2 Deputy District Maintenance Engineer Mark Kuhn wrote in an email to Andrew Rodgers, JTA’s director of construction and engineering. “Please adhere to your permitted color scheme.”

According to the list of permitted color schemes Kuhn attached to his email, JTA was only permitted to display 10 color schemes:

  • Typical day: Jaguar teal

  • Breast cancer awareness: pink throughout

  • New Year’s: gold (amber)

  • St. Patrick’s Day: green

  • Patriotic: red, white and blue

  • Christmas: red and green

  • Halloween: orange and black

  • Thanksgiving: orange and black

  • Valentine’s Day: red and pink

  • Easter: purple, yellow, green and pink

JTA has frequently displayed other colors on the Acosta Bridge, like green for Mental Health Awareness Month and purple and orange ahead of the NFL draft when the Jacksonville Jaguars drafted Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. It’s not yet known if FDOT made any similar requests or received complaints about other color schemes.

 

According to FDOT’s bridge lighting policy, “the department reserves the right to refuse any request it deems offensive or not in the best public interest.”

An FDOT spokeswoman said lighting is handled at the district level.

“All local lighting requests as well as permitting are handled at a district (local) level,” FDOT Communications Director Beth Frady wrote in an email to WJCT News. “The districts are charged with implementing and enforcing the bridge lighting policy and any subsequent agreements or permits.”

It’s not clear why other Pride Month bridge light displays were stopped in other Florida cities, like Sarasota.

This morning, following public outcry, FDOT agreed to let the Pride Month lights return to Jacksonville.

“While the schematic yesterday was not previously submitted/approved, in accordance with the bridge lighting policy, the department has since authorized its use as it is obviously a matter of broad community interest,” Frady wrote. “As a result, the department will also be working with all local partners to ensure bridge lighting requests are facilitated consistently, fairly, and impartially.”

The Office of Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said it was in no way involved in the bridge lighting decisions. “It’s absurd to think otherwise,” spokeswoman Taryn Fenske wrote in an email to WJCT News.

It's not clear whether JTA can go ahead with other light displays planned for June, including Juneteenth commemorating the end of slavery.

Brendan Rivers can be reached at brivers@wjct.org, 904-358-6396 or on Twitter at @BrendanRivers.