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New Lighting Adds ‘Thrilling’ Display To Murray Baker Bridge

Crews test the new spectrum LED lighting display on the Murray Baker Bridge.
Light It Up
Crews test the new spectrum LED lighting display on the Murray Baker Bridge.

The reopening of the Murray Baker Bridge this weekend ushers in a bright addition to the Peoria-area skyline.

A state-of-the art spectrum LED lighting system enables the bridge to display various colors and patterns for special events.

“This is so thrilling for our area,” said Ashley Schreck, team leader for the volunteer Light It Up advocacy group organized through the 1,000 Pounds Project launched by retiring State Sen. Chuck Weaver, R-Peoria.

“It's innovative in that we haven't had our bridge lit to this caliber, but we're not the first to light a bridge. It's very exciting to have something that you normally see in the Louisville (Ky.)-type cities right here in Peoria.”

Schreck, who also is director of marketing for EP!C, said Phase 2 of the Light It Up group's efforts is to work with stakeholders on how to generate revenue through lighting requests, possibly through an entity such as the park district.

“We could light it for our 70th anniversary,” she said, noting the project’s focus on sustainability. “We could light it in support of people with disabilities. The Center for Prevention and Abuse could light it purple for domestic violence awareness. So all these really cool things could be celebrated.”

The bridge will reopen to traffic on Saturday after a seven-month, $42.2 million rehabilitation project through the Rebuild Illinois infrastructure plan.

Schreck said designers and engineers examined light pollution concerns while planning the system, modeled after lighted bridges in cities like Memphis, Omaha (Neb.), and Lowell (Mass.) in addition to Louisville’s Big Four Bridge.

“So, what does the light do for traffic on the bridge, for nature, for residential--because we've got people living downtown. All of that was taken into consideration when doing this,” she said. “They've been able to see what this does in other communities.”

Schreck said the lighting colors and patterns are computer-generated.

“They can actually choose any color in the color spectrum to change it to,” she said. “They could do solid colors; they can have it flow with movement and really amp up the visual aspect of what the bridge is able to do.

“We've had people ask if you could spell out words. Um, and while that's probably a possibility, I don't see that happening.”

During Monday’s news conference announcing the bridge's reopening, State Rep. Jehan Gordon-Booth, D-Peoria, touted the lighting system as a “symbol for the future” of the city. Illinois Secretary of Transportation and Peorian Omer Osman suggested Independence Day and the Festival of Lights as special lighting opportunities.

Schreck said the Murray Baker Bridge’s history and architecture make it a popular attraction for the region, adding plans are in the works to host a nationwide photo contest.

“Photographers flock to it … and now with the bridge lit, it really changes the aspect,” she said. “We can then have a pool of photographers that have taken these professional, amazing shots of our area and continue the celebration of our region.”

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Copyright 2021 WCBU. To see more, visit WCBU.

Joe Deacon is a reporter at WCBU.