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Sarasota Wednesday, Nov. 27, 2019 7 months ago

Residents seek changes to Ringling Bridge lights

Colorful lights on the John Ringling Causeway have drawn criticism from some residents, who are optimistic improvements can be made.
by: David Conway Deputy Managing Editor

Standing in the living room of Paul and Nann Parr on Golden Gate Point, you can see the LED lights illuminating the John Ringling Causeway transition from green to blue.

Then to purple. Then to pink, red and yellow.

Over the course of a half-hour, the lights make two full rotations through the spectrum of colors highlighting the bridge at night. The Florida Department of Transportation spent $178,000 to install 60 lights earlier this year, which change colors on a programmed schedule.

The state agency has undertaken similar efforts to add splashes of color to other bridges in southwest Florida, including the Sunshine Skyway. But some Sarasota residents, including the Parrs, say the Ringling Bridge project missed the mark. Although they think FDOT was well intentioned, they have a number of issues with the lighting, including the intensity of the colors and the frequency with which the hues are changed.

“This is a little over the top,” Paul Parr said.

The Parrs aren’t alone. According to Joan Lovell, the president of the Golden Gate Point Association, there are mixed opinions on the bridge lights within the downtown-adjacent waterfront community, but the majority of residents are interested in seeing some sort of a change. In a letter to the city, Lovell estimated about 40% of residents are “deeply upset” by the lights, another 40% would like to see some adjustments, and the remaining 20% like the lights as-is.

Lovell said those most upset by the lights find the bright LEDs garish and say they degrade the look of the Ringling Causeway. For those who think the light setup could be salvaged, proposed changes include putting the colors on a slower rotation, waiting until after sunset to turn the lights on and emphasizing hues “more consistent with nature and the environment” — more white and blue, less red and yellow. Those who support the lights see them as a fun feature that makes Sarasota stand out.

Right now, the Golden Gate Point Association is in the early stages of trying to find a compromise with the state. The Parrs, for example, fall into the middle camp that think some changes can make the lights a desirable amenity. They liked the red, white and blue display on Veterans Day, but they suggested more colorful arrangements could be saved for special occasions.

They acknowledged the lights might seem like a nice feature for drivers traveling by the bridge, but they thought the perspective of residents living in proximity to the causeway merited consideration too.

“Now we have to shut our blinds,” Paul Parr said.

Paul Parr and Lovell both endorsed the atmosphere of the previous lighting setup on the bridge, which they said accentuated the architecture of the causeway by highlighting the columns in softer lighting. Still, Lovell is stopping short of offering definitive recommendations before a more thorough conversation is had among residents.

“We want to do this as a part of our community,” Lovell said.

FDOT did not return requests for comment, but Lovell said the agency has been responsive to resident input about the lights.

“I think the state was trying to give us something we’d love as much [as the Sunshine Skyway],” Lovell said. “I think we can reach some understanding.”

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