Layout models to make the famous cable bridge even more popular
The Tri-Cities’ iconic cable bridge, an engineering masterpiece that has inspired countless iterations, could get a dazzling update worthy of its storied history.
A small group of volunteers is seeking support from officials in Kennewick and Pasco to replace aging sodium vapor lamps with an energy-efficient, programmable LED system.
If successful, the bridge could easily be lit to honor the Water Follies, high school graduations and other community events.
Cathy Lampson, along with Karen Miller and Deb Culverhouse, began promoting the lighting update about two years ago. They say it’s time to replace the energy-hungry lights that cast white beams with the same modern technology used on bridges across the country.
The cable bridge is sometimes dipped in different colors but only when special lenses are installed on each of the 144 light fixtures. The cost and risk make this rare.
“We’re just three girls trying to come up with an idea,” Lampson said. “We see it as a no-brainer.”
Visiting the Tri-Cities helps
Lampson, Miller and Culverhouse pitched the idea to local governments and found a champion in the tourism promotion agency Visit Tri-Cities. The momentum stalled when director Michael Novakovich left and the agency searched for his eventual replacement, Kevin Lewis.
Lampson reports interest has been revived. The Tri-City Rivershore Enhancement Council, run by Visit Tri-Cities, is preparing a local agreement to pursue the idea.
It asks the cities and ports of Kennewick and Pasco to contribute $25,000 to study the idea and reduce the cost, perhaps in the range of $2 million.
The Port of Pasco sees importance in upgrading the bridge, Randy Hayden, executive director, told the recently elected commission.
Hayden said he expects the expense to be approved, calling it a great way to complement the port’s plans to rebuild its pier, which is located a short distance downstream.
“This will be a great entrance to our dock,” he said.
The Kennewick Port Commission previously expressed its support and will discuss contributing to the effort at its Nov. 14 meeting.
The cable bridge was a huge success when it opened in 1978. The ribbon cutting attracted everyone in the state, including Washington Governor Dixie Lee Ray and U.S. Rep. Tom Foley, Speaker of the House from Spokane. Design awards poured in and cable bridges gained traction across the United States
In 1985, President Ronald Reagan honored her with the first-ever Presidential Award for Excellence in Design. Architect I.M. Pei chaired the jury.
But it is overshadowed by the bridges that inspired it. One example is Portland’s Tilikum Crossing, a cable-stayed crossing that opened in 2015 that spans the Willamette River near downtown. It is fully lit and anchors the famous Portland Light Festival.
Lampson expected Tri-Citians to come together to upgrade their bridge.
The cable bridge was first washed a color other than white in September 2013. Ovarian Cancer Together, a local non-profit, raised $5,000 to install teal screens on each light for an awareness campaign.
The campaign was a success, but its cost was so high that it could not be repeated often.
The cable bridge was originally built by the cities of Kennewick and Pasco but is now owned and operated by the Washington State Department of Transportation.
Any lighting plan must comply with stringent Department of Transportation safety regulations.
This story was originally published November 13, 2023, 5:00 AM.