Art project to illuminate Bay Bridge

About 25,000 LED lights will be strung along the western span of the Bay Bridge over the next several months as part of a two-year art installation inspired by the bridge’s 75th anniversary.

The Bay Lights, an $8 million project expected to be unveiled in March, will help bring attention to a bridge that is often overshadowed by the Golden Gate Bridge, said Ben Davis, whose organization, Illuminate the Arts, is overseeing the project.

The Bay Bridge, which opened in 1936, a year before its more famous neighbor, “didn’t get quite the recognition that I felt it deserved,” Davis said. “I wanted to find a way, at least for a brief while, to bring the consciousness back to this bridge.”

The privately funded “light sculpture” is being designed by Leo Villareal, who has created light installations in museums and public spaces worldwide.

The lights — which will not be visible to drivers on the bridge, but can be seen from a distance — will be mounted on the western span’s vertical cables and will operate for about seven hours per night.

Permits for the project were awarded in August, and installation will begin next month, organizers said.

Two former San Francisco mayors, Willie Brown and now-Lt. Gov. Gavin Newsom, were on hand at a news conference Tuesday to announce the project.

“This is the kind of thing we need to do to remind people what a special place this is,” Newsom said. “I think this thing is going to blow people away.”

The lights will be installed during weekday overnight hours and will cause some lane closures on the upper deck of the bridge, but the effect on traffic is expected to be minimal, Davis said.

Donations for project can be made at http://causes.com.

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