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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

The Indian River Inlet Bridge in Delaware was newly constructed in 2012 after four preceding bridges before it ultimately failed due to the harsh maritime environment of its location. The newest rendition of the Indian River Inlet Bridge – which is officially called the Charles W. Cullen Bridge – is a 2,600-foot suspension bridge that features major lighting upgrades from the previous span. The new bridge features magnificent aesthetic stay lighting, walkway lighting, and maintenance lighting, providing a resilient, shimmering contrast at night against the vast darkness of the Indian River Bay and Atlantic Ocean. Energy efficiency was improved on the new suspension bridge, utilizing LED design to reduce energy expenditure by over 65% and lower maintenance costs and safety concerns. For travelers above and below the bridge, a maritime lighting system and an aviation obstruction lighting system were installed for the safe passage of air and sea travelers.



Indian Inlet River Bridge

Credit: Photo Credit: William Bartholomew

Trenton Makes Bridge

The current Trenton Makes Bridge, more formally named the Lower Trenton Toll Supported Bridge, has spanned the Delaware River between New Jersey and Pennsylvania since 1929 and bearing the iconic message “TRENTON MAKES THE WORLD TAKES” in bright red neon since 1935. Recently, the historic sign received a major upgrade with the replacement of its neon tubing for LED elements. The LED lighting system upgrade will allow for a more dependable light source, be energy efficient, and less costly in the long run for maintenance and upgrades. The LED upgrade also allows the color of the letters to be changed from red to any other color of the spectrum. This will provide opportunity to sync the color of the iconic message with the colors of holidays and local or national events.



Trenton Makes Bridge featuring new LED lighting

Ben Franklin Bridge

The Ben Franklin Bridge is an iconic piece of the City of Philadelphia’s skyline. The decorative illumination adds drama to the nighttime sky in honor of holidays and special events. The aging lighting system is comprised of more than 1,000 lighting fixtures installed in 1987 and more recently in 2000. The decorative lighting is about to undergo a multimillion-dollar upgrade to an LED lighting system to be more energy-efficient, require less maintenance, and allow for greater programmability.


Lighting the Way

While recognized as a leader in bridge design and construction support, Urban Engineers 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 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.


Get in Touch
Vice President, General Manager, Facilities & Building Systems 215.922.8080
Get in Touch
Senior Vice President and General Manager, Transportation Construction Services 215.922.8081