The Bay Lights in 2017, still fully functional.

The Bay Lights in 2017, still fully functional.
Photo: Dllu / Wikimedia Commons

We’re typically concerned with shortening our drives and covering the toll when it comes to suspension bridges. Yet, suspension bridges can also become symbols of the areas where they are built. San Francisco is likely near the top of many lists of cities recognizable for their bridges, next to Pittsburgh and Venice. California’s Golden Gate Bridge’s two towers in international orange, carpeted by fog, is an evocative image of the city for many. A close second would likely be the Bay Bridge’s glowing strands. However, those lights could be going out forever on Sunday.

Caltrans will be indefinitely turning off the Bay Lights, an art installation on the San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge, on Sunday. According to NBC Bay Area, the decision was made because large portions of the light sculpture, designed by artist Leo Villareal, were broken and too costly to repair. Illuminate, the public art non-profit that originally installed the Bay Lights, is attempting to raise $11 million in an attempt to save and fully restore the project.

The 25,000-LED sculpture was installed on the bridge’s 300 cables in March 2013. The Bay Lights were only intended to be on display for a few years, but it was made permanent in 2016. In 2015, the Bay Area Toll Authority had approved a $2.1 million contract for Philips Lighting North America Corporation to maintain the Bay Lights for the next ten years. According to SFist, Illuminate estimated that it would cost $12 million for maintenance across the contract and the non-profit raised the funds. Though, it seems like the amount was not enough for upkeep.

Hopefully, the money can be raised to save the Bay Lights. Transportation infrastructure exists for function, but form should also be considered in designing and maintaining the public structures in the everyday lives of millions.

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