Let There Be Colors on Key Bridge

While the lights of the city sometimes reflect off the Potomac River and flicker along the arches of Key Bridge, which connects Georgetown in Washington, D.C., to Arlington, Virginia, think how much more dramatic a lighting system on the bridge might illuminate and enchant the evening on the river.

A community meeting was held by the main players on this idea — the District Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration — called the Francis Scott Key Bridge Architectural Lighting Project.

As DDOT sees it, the lighting project proposes improvements to enhance nighttime views and accentuate Key Bridge’s unique architectural features. The lighting would be installed on the bridge’s underside and would be separate from the existing lights on the bridge surface. There are several concepts for lighting fixtures as well as where the light would be directed — and whether the illumination simply be white or in different colors, such as red or blue.

At the meeting, feedback was sought, and neighbors expressed concerns about the bridge’s lighting system going overboard with too many colors for too many special days, occasions, groups or agendas. It appears on this matter two Georgetown groups are at odds: the Citizens Association of Georgetown prefers the bridge lights to remain white and the Georgetown Business Improvement District prefers the occasional multi-color option.

Completed in 1923, the Classical Revival-styled bridge replaced the longtime Aqueduct Bridge and is named for Georgetown resident, Francis Scott Key, the author of “The Star-Spangled Banner,” the national anthem. Once located a block from the bridge, Key’s house on M Street originally had a backyard that went all the way down to the river, since in 1814 the C&O Canal had not yet been built.

Because of this patriotic connection, we believe a occasional red-white-and-blue lighting option to the bridge would be appropriate — especially for the Fourth of July and Flag Day— if used sparingly. We do not wish the bridge to be illuminated for every special day in people’s mind. The bridge lighting should be white most of the time. While we agree with the Georgetown BID on this score, we appreciate CAG’s judicious approach. We also must ascertain who or which group makes the decision to switch on the color for special occasions.

Any changes to Key Bridge involve the federal government, but we need not make a “federal project out of it,” so to speak, on this disagreement.

For more information and the project and future public meetings, contact DDOT Project Manager Ted Van Houten (theodore.vanhouten@dc.gov, 202-671-4580), or visit the study website at www.keybridgelighting.com.


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