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San Francisco: Bay Bridge ready to shine with 25,000 LED lights

March 05, 2013|By Mary Forgione | Los Angeles Times Daily Travel & Deal blogger
  • The light sculpture on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was illuminated temporarily in February. The light sculpture will officially be lighted Tuesday night.
The light sculpture on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge was illuminated… (Jeff Chiu / Associated Press )

The San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge is the city's other bridge, the overlooked sister to the more beloved Golden Gate Bridge.

But that could change Tuesday night. Artist Leo Villareal will flip the switch on his massive art project of 25,000 white LED lights that run 1.8 miles and 500 feet high on the bridge's west span. From dusk until 2 a.m. for the next two years, lights will shimmer with patterns that never repeat, courtesy of a program Villareal wrote for each light on the computer-controlled sculpture.

The Grand Lighting Ceremony begins at 8:30 p.m. and can be seen via live stream at the Bay Lights website and at Pier 1 of the Embarcadero among other points around the city (the website shows a map of viewing sites).

The public art project presented by the nonprofit Illuminate the Arts is privately funded and, according to Bay Lights, has raised $6 million of its $8-million goal -- and that was before the lights were turned on. The energy cost runs about $15 a night or $11,000 for the two-year period.

The Bay Bridge, a year older than its more famous counterpart, is best known for collapsing during the 1989 Loma Prieta earthquake. Part of the upper deck dropped onto the lower deck on the eastern span during the 6.9-magnitude shaker. Now, after a long seismic retrofitting project, the bridge boasts that it's the "world's largest self-anchored suspension span."
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