About 25,000 LED lights will be strung along the western span of the Bay Bridge over the next several months as part of a two-year art installation inspired by the bridge’s 75th anniversary.
“The Bay Lights,” an $8 million project expected to be unveiled in March 2013, will help bring attention to a bridge that is often overshadowed by its neighbor to the north, the Golden Gate Bridge, said Ben Davis, whose organization, Illuminate the Arts, is overseeing the project.
The Bay Bridge, which opened in 1936, “didn’t get quite the recognition that I felt it deserved,” Davis said. “I wanted to find a way, at least for a brief while, to bring the consciousness back to this bridge.”
The privately funded “light sculpture” is being designed by Leo Villareal, who has created light installations in museums and public spaces around the country and world.
The lights, which will not be visible to drivers on the bridge but can be seen from a distance, will be mounted on the vertical cables of the western span and will operate for about seven hours per night.
Permits for the project were awarded in August, and installation will begin next month, organizers said.
Two former San Francisco mayors, Willie Brown and now-Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom were on hand at a news conference today to announce the project.
“This is the kind of thing we need to do to remind people what a special place this is,” Newsom said. “I think this thing is going to blow people away.”
The lights will be installed during weekday overnight hours and will cause some lane closures on the upper deck of the bridge, but the effect on traffic is expected to be minimal, Davis said.
Illuminate the Arts has collected $5.5 million for the project and is still seeking donors for the rest of the funding.
“We are going to raise the $2.5 million,” he said. “I think we’re going to do it relatively quickly, this is an inspiring piece and it does make a difference to our city.”
The March lighting ceremony will come just months before the new eastern span of the bridge is expected to open on Labor Day weekend in 2013.
Donations for “The Bay Lights” project can be made at www.causes.com/thebaylights.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News