In November 2013, with fireworks exploding in the night sky, Mayor Betsy Price flipped the switch to turn on the lights on the rebuilt West Seventh Street Bridge.
Since then, the lights have been unreliable, and now city staff is asking the council to approve spending $200,000 to fix them. The warranty on the electrical system has expired, the city said.
The problem, said Alonzo Linan, the city’s transportation and public works assistant director, is that outages are caused when the wiring gets wet. It’s only when the water can be drained and the wires dry out that the lights can be turned on, he said.
Eventually, corrosion will take its toll, he said. “All the lights on the bridge,” are affected, Linan said. “We know what the problem is.”
So while the system needs repair and equipment replaced, city staff is recommending spending more money and transition to multicolored and programmable LED lighting, a city report said. Needed are marine-grade wiring, connectors and water-resistant light fixtures.
The City Council learned of the problem earlier this year but is now being asked to approve the expenditure.
Rather than asking the state to fix the problem, money to pay for the project will come from a $1.8 million rebate the city is receiving on the project from the Texas Department of Transportation. The city partnered with TxDOT on the bridge, and its share amounted to $13 million, but the city did not take a role in the bridge’s design.
The state recently closed its books on the $26 million project, done to replace the crumbling 100-year-old structure that had failed state inspections. The bridge is an important connector between the central business district and the cultural district on the near west side.
The bridge has two primary lighting systems, including the pole lights in the median for the traffic lanes and the lights that run along the bottom of the 12 arches that span the 1,000-foot-long bridge. Those lights light up the arches and the extra-wide sidewalks on the outside of the bridge.
The pole lights are fine, but the power source to them is not, Linan said. All the other lights need replacing.
City staff is repairing the main power source, but a contractor is lined up and ready to go to complete the remaining work and will start the work after council approval, scheduled for June 28, Linan said.
Linan said the project should be completed by early fall, “or sooner.”
This story contains information from the Star-Telegram archives.