Light it Up

A bright community plan aims to light up the High Level Bridge.

An EPCOR crew member looks like he’s sitting on a window-washer platform, but there aren’t any windows in sight. Instead, he’s hanging from the High Level Bridge, ready to help install more than 60,000 high-efficiency LED lights for the Light Up the Bridge project. The process of putting up the lights and testing them will take almost eight months. Luckily, though, once the lights are installed, there won’t be a need to bring out the platform very often, according to Dave Hoeksema, manager of engineering at EPCOR Technologies.

You would think such a large amount of lights would require an equally large amount of upkeep. But Hoeksema says the lights won’t need a lot of maintenance. “Traditional sources for exterior lighting generally have to be replaced about every four years. With LED lights, manufacturers claim they run about 100,000 hours – they’re really high quality – so we won’t have to touch the lights for a long time,” he says. 

Hoeksema is especially proud that the project won’t contribute to light pollution. Animals (including humans) have adapted to a certain level of light, and when that’s disrupted, it can negatively affect the ability for some creatures to migrate, reproduce or feed. “Light pollution is really the amount of light that’s going up, as opposed to down, and so we’re able with this design to point all of the lights straight down; so the light pollution is eliminated, period,” he says.

Hoeksema’s team also worked on the colourful ceiling of Hub Mall and the LEDs that reflect inside the Muttart Conservatory. But the lights of the bridge can create more than 16 million different colours, making the project unlike anything he’s seen. And the uniqueness of the project and the technology are part of why the project has received so much support, says Hoeksema. 

Created by volunteers through Make Something Edmonton, which encourages citizens to create projects that improve the city, the funds come straight from Edmontonians. A 100-year-old woman even bought 100 bulbs for $25 each in honour of the bridge that shares her age – later, Mayor Stephen Mandel matched her donation. “The bridge is a way for us to connect with the city visually,” says Tammy Pidner, who’s on the executive committee for the project. “It’s kind of like a gift we give ourselves for a piece of our city.” 

Community engagement doesn’t end with fundraising. Even after the project is complete, Hoeksema says the public and the artists’ community will help come up with creative ways to light the bridge.

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