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Bright Bridges: A Closer Look at Bridge Lighting
Publication Date
April 16th 2019

Bridge lighting illuminates our nation’s roadways to help safely guide travelers across, under, and over their spans. It also serves as a form of art, decorating a skyline and sometimes even serving as a memorable icon for a city. As a majority of the nation’s bridge stock ages, maintenance, updates, and sometimes even replacements become imperative in order to keep our bridges in a state of good repair. Lighting upgrades not only provide enhanced safety for travelers but can also boost energy efficiencies, as well as improved aesthetics.


Recently, three major, long-standing spans have undergone lighting upgrades as part of the effort to maintain their use and historic value. The lighting served different purposes for each, but the enhancements make for improved and more efficient bridges.


Indian River Inlet Bridge

Owner: Delaware Department of Transportation

Delaware’s Indian River Inlet Bridge has been reconstructed several times, owing to its harsh surrounding maritime environment. The latest version of the 2,600-foot-long suspension span, officially called the Charles W. Cullen Bridge, features major lighting upgrades, compared to the previous span. Magnificent aesthetic stay lighting, walkway lighting, and maintenance lighting provides a shimmering contrast at night against the Indian River Bay and Atlantic Ocean. LED lights reduce energy use by more than 65% as well as maintenance costs and safety concerns. Maritime and aviation obstruction lighting systems installed below and above the bridge help improve safety for air and sea travelers.



Indian Inlet River Bridge

Indian River Inlet Bridge Credit: William Bartholomew

Trenton Makes Bridge

Owner: Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission

The iconic “TRENTON MAKES THE WORLD TAKES” message on the Trenton Makes Bridge, formally named the Lower Trenton Toll-Supported Bridge, was recently upgraded from its 1935 red neon tubing to LED lighting. The LED lighting offers a more dependable light source which is energy efficient and less costly to maintain and upgrade. The color of the letters can also be changed, allowing Trenton to sync the color of the iconic message with holiday or event-themed colors.


Trenton Makes Bridge featuring new LED lighting

Ben Franklin Bridge

Owner: Delaware River Port Authority

The aging Ben Franklin Bridge lighting system will undergo a multimillion-dollar upgrade to an LED system. The bridge is an iconic piece of Philadelphia’s skyline and its decorative illumination adds drama to the nighttime sky in honor of holidays and special events. The aging lighting system contains more than 1,000 lighting fixtures installed in 1987, and more recently in 2000. Along with improved energy efficiency, the LED lighting system can be programmed in a variety of ways to support events, while requiring less maintenance.


Ben Franklin Bridge APR2023

Benjamin Franklin Bridge Credit: Urban Engineers,Inc.

Ben Franklin Bridge APR 2023-2

Benjamin Franklin Bridge Credit: Urban Engineers,Inc.

Lighting the Way

While recognized as a leader in bridge design and construction support, Urban was proud to have played an integral role in the lighting upgrades to these three infrastructure assets. The firm’s facilities and building systems group provided engineering design services for the Indian River Inlet Bridge with DMJM Harris/AECOM and the Ben Franklin Bridge with The Lighting Practice. Urban provided construction management for the upgrades to the “Trenton Makes” sign supporting the execution of The Lighting Practice’s lighting solution.


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Vice President, Market Leader for Buildings & Development 215.922.8080