Concerns, Lack of Funds Stymie Key Bridge Lights

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At a March 29 public meeting at the Georgetown Public Library on the proposed decorative lighting of Key Bridge, the first such meeting since September, it was clear that a number of obstacles had to be cleared for the project to proceed.

The overall mood in the air combined conscientiousness and nervousness. Those involved with the project were seeking constructive feedback and support.

Ted Van Houten, project manager for the District Department of Transportation, said that it has been decided, based on the feedback, that the bridge will have lighting on both its large arches and its small arches. Without the small arches illuminated, people felt something would be missing, he said.

Regarding the lighting itself, there were concerns about there being too much light, light pollution and negative effects on nearby Reagan National Airport.

Another issue of concern is the color of the lights. The idea is floating around to have colorful lighting during holidays and special events. So far, the proposed colors are restricted to red, white, blue and pink. However, the Old Georgetown Board made it clear that there should only be white lighting.

The thought process behind the color choices is roughly as follows: the red, white and blue combination and deep blue are popular; pink and white are for the cherry blossoms; and red and white are the colors of the D.C. flag. “This is just one draft,” said Van Houten.

Anne Lewis, president of City Wildlife, found the installation of lights, especially colorful lights, problematic for migratory birds and other species, including humans. “This is a very sensitive issue,” she said.

The U.S. Commission of Fine Arts, which strongly discourages colored lighting, emphasized the need to have strong management at the helm. The National Capital Planning Commission also stressed the importance of a management plan, but supports the project as long as there are no adverse effects.

With the need for a management plan and for additional tasks, DDOT cannot currently move forward with the project due to a lack of funding.

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