Current Lighting Project: The Burnside Bridge

  • No Lighting

  • Towers Lighted

  • Center Span Lighted

  • Roof Lighted

  • Side Spans Lighted

WLB’s Current Project:  Adding Architectural Lighting to Portland’s Central Bridge

WLB’s current efforts are focused on adding a lighting system that will shine on the architectural features of this bridge which spans the narrowest portion of the Willamette River in the Portland area.  The Burnside’s style was influenced by the City Beautiful Movement of the 20’s and the contribution of an architect in its design–uniquely so among Portland’s bridges.

Its long east and west approaches emphasize its geographic importance:  It permits its namesake street to stretch virtually from the eastern edge to the western edge of the city and to serve as the city’s north/south divider.  The most notable, appealing architectural features of the bridge are the ornate spindle-type balustrade railings (wrought iron on the central bascule sections) and the two turreted operator houses which are cantilevered from the south face of the main piers.  The towers are the features that will be lighted first.

Help Light the Burnside Bridge!




WCC and RACC selected local sculptor and project artist Bill Will to design lighting concepts for the Burnside.  Will’s design highlights the expansive outer spans of this central bridge, the graceful central draw structure (bascules) and the iconic operator houses.  It also calls for returning to street lights that replicate those used originally on the bridge (of a human-scale and style to match the bridge), but with modern luminaires to produce a safe and natural glow.  As with all WLB lighting systems, this one will be powered with sustainable energy and use efficient, minimal light-trespassing fixtures.

As funds are available we’ll phase in the lighting system:

~Phase I  Turreted Italian Renaissance Towers  Since the May 25th opening of the 2012 Portland Rose Festival flloodlights on the upriver dolphins  illuminate the south facets of the octagonal control towers, their bases and the shadow-casting brackets and arches that perch them atop the massive piers.  Finally the bridge’s architect-designed iconic features are visible each night!

~Phase II  Center Bascules   Light-emitting diodes (LEDs) will trace the graceful arch of this lift span.  The  two 126-feet long leaves in the center of the bridge (designed by Joseph B. Strauss who later designed San Francisco’s Golden Gate suspension bridge) have solid concrete decks that weigh nearly 5,000 tons.  To tip these bascules up & return them safely in place once river traffic has passed beneath, an operator in the tower activates gears and 1,700-ton counterweights in each pier.  Seeing this bascule movement at night will be as delightful as it is impressive by day.

~Phase III  Tower Roof Tiles   LEDs will wash over these colorful red terra cotta tower tops, making the full outline of these octagonal icons visible from all directions.  These lights will help reveal at night the colors of these Italianate-style towers–green, white and red like the flag of Italy.

~Phase IV  East and West Spans   LEDs will reveal the distinctive criss-cross pattern of the two 266′ steel deck trusses which flank the towers and central bascule sections.  This phase will complete our ability to see at night from both upriver and downriver the full stretch of this symmetrical bridge.

~ Final Phase  Historical Street Lights   Returning to period-style lamp posts and globes will restore some of the original bridge charm by day–charm that was lost when tall (cobra-head) highway lights were installed mid-century.  And by night the globes’ modern luminaire technology will emit a natural glow on the roadway, sidewalks and ornate spindle balustrade railings and give the overall effect of a string of pearls along the expansive Willamette crossing that is this river-based city’s center.


The Burnside Lighting Project needs your help.  Please mail your tax deductible donation to WLB, P.O. Box 40390, Portland, OR 97240-0390 or make a donation on-line through PayPal.  Thank you!