Texas Bridge Now An LED Tourist Attraction

With its steel truss spanning 620 feet above the shipping channel, the Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge is a prominent landmark in Corpus Christi, Texas — and now, thanks to a new lighting system, it figures prominently in the city’s skyline at night. The bridge, which has been in the dark for nearly ten years, is now illuminated by energy efficient, color-changing LEDs from Philips Color Kinetics (PCK).

The bridge was constructed back in the 1950s, but its original lighting system fell victim to the local elements, which include the punishing trifecta of extreme heat, harsh winds and salt water. Corpus Christi Mayor Joe Adame — inspired what he’d learned about the benefits and applications of LED lighting at the 2010 United States Conference of Mayors — tapped Naismith Engineering and Spectrum Lighting to determine the viability of lighting the harbor bridge using this tech. Naismith, in turn, tested lighting fixtures from several companies that came pre-programmed with color-changing displays for 4th of July shows, and Philips emerged victorious.

Christi Harbor Bridge LED system

image via Philips

According to Philips, its PCK system beat out all comers based on its light output, which is four times the intensity of that of competing products. But the City of Corpus Christi still needed to make sure that system could stand up to the harsh Gulf Coast environment, so it started by installing PCK lighting on two smaller pilot projects for wind vanes in the downtown area and on the local amphitheater. The PCK LEDs passed the test, so the city moved ahead on the bridge project, with the Texas Department of Transportation, the Port, the City of Corpus Christi and a generous donation from American Bank covering costs.

Corpus Christi Mayor Joe Adame said, in a statement, “…I saw an opportunity to take a landmark like the Harbor Bridge and turn it into a showcase that Corpus Christi could be proud of, and one that has had a positive economic effect.” Apparently, it’s working, as the bridge has become a local attraction since it was relit in December, creating buzz around Corpus Christi and beyond for its lightshows (which change on a monthly basis). Hospitality businesses near the bridge, such as restaurants and hotels, report selling out on a regular basis, and now require reservations at least a one month in advance.

Susan DeFreitas has covered all manner of green technology for EarthTechling since 2009. She is a graduate of Prescott College for the Liberal Arts and the Environment, and has a background in marketing green businesses. Her work on green living has been featured in Yes! Magazine, the Utne Reader and Natural Home.