Bay Bridge Light Display Enters Testing Phase

Display will not be visable to drivers on the Bay Bridge

By Staff and Wires
|  Thursday, Jan 10, 2013  |  Updated 6:07 PM PDT
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In early March, the Bay Bridge will turn into the world's largest light display. Crews are currently in the midst of hanging those lights and NBC Bay Area's Joe Rosato Jr. got to tag along.

In early March, the Bay Bridge will turn into the world's largest light display. Crews are currently in the midst of hanging those lights and NBC Bay Area's Joe Rosato Jr. got to tag along.

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If you're walking along the Embarcadero this weekend, take a look at the Bay Bridge to check out a new light display.

Testing of "The Bay Lights" begins Thursday night and will happen every night after dark through next Tuesday.

If you haven't heard, 25,000 LED lights are being strung along the Bay  Bridge's western span as part of an art installation intended to mark the  bridge's 75th anniversary and is set to be unveiled the first week of March.

The $8 million display "sculpture" is the work of artist Leo Villareal. Villareal plans to use computer software to manipulate a 1.8 mile swath of lights on the north side of the bridge’s western span as a high tech piece of fine art. Villareal said he will base the moving patterns of light on the environment.

“The movement of water, the traffic, any kind of movement is what I’m taking inspiration from,” Villareal explained.

Once the project is completed,  the lights will be turned on for about seven hours each night.

 Organizers are still seeking $2.3 million in funds to finish the  project. People wishing to donate or find out more about "The Bay Lights" can  visit www.thebaylights.org.

So far, the installation is 40 percent done.

Crews are only able to work between 8 p.m. and 5 a.m. when a pair of bridge lanes can be closed. But because of the delicate process of shutting down lanes of traffic on the busy bridge, the light hanging consumes only a small amount of the allotted time.

“As you can see, our biggest challenge is access,” said Saeed Shahmirzai, who is overseeing the light installation.

“We have four baskets working. Two have electricians on them hanging lights and the other two are constantly moving to new positions.”

The work is taking place a couple hundred feet above the upper deck of the bridge and around 500 feet above the Bay. Workers scale the cables in metal baskets, then slowly descend, using plastic ties along the way to secure the small LED lights to the cables.

“The cables are anywhere from one foot high to 240 feet high,” said Shahmirzai. “So imagine you are standing on deck level right now, you they have to be 25 stories up hanging lights.”

The privately-funded project is officially set to switch-on March 5.

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