The new state-of-the-art decorative lighting system on the Ben Franklin Bridge designed by Urban Engineers and The Lighting Practice recently had its unveiling. The Delaware River Port Authority (DRPA) completed the installation of the new system on the span's north side as part of the ongoing $216.9 million Ben Franklin Bridge Suspension Span and Anchorage Rehabilitation Project. A lighting ceremony and a several-minute light show featuring dazzling lighting sequences marked the occasion.
The Benjamin Franklin Bridge is a renowned nighttime landmark along the Philadelphia and Camden waterfronts. For over 35 years the bridge's decorative lighting has illuminated the skyline and added to the region's festivities.
“Urban was excited about this opportunity to reinvigorate the lighting of this iconic bridge,” said James Bilella, PE, an Urban vice president and market leader for buildings & development. “More than a bridge, it is a living, working sculpture that demands to be enhanced and activated by decorative lighting to show all the commerce and activity DRPA structures bring to the region. Our firm understood that there were many things to consider about this project beyond the creative lighting, including ease of maintenance, energy efficiency, cost of construction, and minimizing the operational impacts during construction.”
First installed in 1987, the bridge's decorative lighting was comprised of halide spotlights at the bottom and reflectors at the top of each of the bridge's 256 vertical suspender cables, outlining the bridge structure in visible lights. DRPA upgraded the lighting in 2000 by adding multicolor LED lights along the bridge deck. These lights produced various effects, such as a chasing effect with lights following PATCO train cars as they crossed the bridge and colorful light shows themed to holidays and other special events.
As part of the most recent Ben Franklin Bridge Suspension Span and Anchorage Rehabilitation Project, DRPA upgraded the decorative lighting to a new energy-efficient LED system in 2023. Urban Engineers was the prime consultant to provide engineering design and construction administration services for the lighting systems. Working with The Lighting Practice, Urban designed an LED lighting system that replaced over 1,000 luminaires along the 1.5-mile length of the bridge. The new system is fully integrated, providing improved lighting effects, better control and flexibility, easier maintainability, and improved energy efficiency. The project included exterior and partial interior lighting, lighting controls, lighting supports, electrical equipment, fiber optic network modifications, code compliance, commissioning procedures, preventative maintenance schedules, and the restoration of historic light fixtures.
The decorative LED lighting system improvements included the following elements:
The new design fundamentally provides a more efficient system operation and maintenance, as well as the dramatic utilization of multicolor LED fixtures producing color-programmable lighting effects. The new system allows the bridge to be illuminated in full-color-spectrum lighting options creating static or dynamic light shows for virtually any future celebratory event. Urban is proud to have contributed to this iconic landmark's continued legacy by providing cutting-edge design and engineering solutions.