Photo Credit: JONATHAN HOUSE - The new Tilikum Crossing Bridge across the Willamette River lit up October 16 and 17 when TriMet tested its ambient lighting system. This picture was taken by Portland Tribune photographer Jonathan House at around 8:45 pm on the 16th.For decades, the light atop the Standard Insurance Building downtown has signaled a weather forecast. The color indicates temperature change; and if the light flashes, it’s going to rain. Of course, that light has always been hard to spot in Inner Southeast, and with the high-rise construction around the Standard Insurance building in recent years, it’s now almost impossible.

And, it’s not going to be easy to see the lights on the new Tilikum Crossing transit bridge from most of Inner Southeast either, unless you are in the vicinity of OMSI with a view of the river. But the lights there will certainly attract attention. They are designed to give river conditions – but the code with that information will be a bit more complex.

Designed by Morgan Barnard, Douglas Hollis and the late Anna Valentina Murch, the lights are directed at the twenty bridge cables, the four tower pylons above and below the deck, and at the two landside abutments.

They change colors according to data streamed from a U.S. Geological Service river monitor near the Morrison Bridge, based on the river’s speed, height, and water temperature.

According to TriMet:

· The base colors will be determined by the water temperature.

· The speed of the river controls the pace at which the colors change and move across the bridge.

· The height of the river is displayed by a secondary color moving vertically up and down the pylons and cables.

Large changes will occur over the course of the seasons, and smaller fluctuations will occur constantly throughout the day.

The LED lights in the system are five times more energy-efficient than conventional metal Halide lights, and last up to sixteen times longer with far less degradation of lighting output.

In addition to the aesthetic lighting, the bridge has aviation and river transport navigational lighting, as well as functional lighting for bridge use during nighttime hours. But the coded color display at night is not only information  its intended as public art.

The ambient light system is funded from a TriMet program that is dedicating 1.5 percent of the construction cost of the Portland-to-Milwaukie light-rail project to art.

The 7.3-mile new Inner Southeast MAX line is scheduled to open on September 12, 2015.

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