Bay Bridge Light Display Debuts

Lights are 500 feet tall and span 1.8 miles

For the first time in its 75 year history, the Bay Bridge was set to outshine its famous cousin the Golden Gate.

With a flip of a switch, or more accurately the launch of a computer algorithm, 25,000 white LED lights will burst to life on the vertical cables of the bridge.

Suddenly, the hulking, stoic gray steel structure will be overtaken with a seething mass of moving lights, shape-shifting into an infinite variety of patterns.

"What you're looking at is the biggest light show on this huge expansion of the Bay Bridge," said Carole Klyce, whose apartment overlooks the Bay Bridge. "There's nothing like it in the whole world."

The project was first envisioned by Ben Davis after an experience at the Burning Man arts festival. He wanted to find a way to mark the 75th anniversary of the Bay Bridge.

"I've always had a special place in my heart for the Bay Bridge," said Davis, gazing out on the bridge.

The Bay Lights will remain on the bridge for two years, with artist Leo Villareal's light vision coming to life on its own each night.

"He sets into motion a sequencing that will be completely non-repeating over the course of the next two years," said Davis. "Coming on every night at dusk and last until two in the morning."

The $8 million project was financed through private donations.

The lights are strung along the north side of the Western Span.

But they will be visible to millions of spectators who are expected to take-in the display over the next two years.

Restaurants along the Embarcadero with Bay views like Sinbad's and Waterbar were already booked up for opening night parties.

"The bridge is stunning in its own right," said Waterbar general manager Keith Rada. "Then to have this beautiful fine arts light show going on over our San Francisco Bay is really generating a lot buzz."

The light display will serve as a candle on the cake of events in the next year including the America's Cup Yacht race and the opening of the new Eastern span of the Bay Bridge.

With his grand vision just hours from becoming reality, Davis mulled his feelings about what he'd accomplished.

"Like the work itself, it's sublime and hard to figure out," Davis said. "Maybe a little surreal."

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