The bright ideas behind Edmonton’s Light the Bridge project

Above: The makeover is nearly complete as the High Level Bridge is about to light up Edmonton’s skyline. Quinn Ohler shows us what it’s taken to make this possible.

EDMONTON – On July 1st, Edmontonians will be treated to an incredible show as roughly 50,000 LED lights illuminate the High Level Bridge.

Getting to this point has been no easy feat, though.

“There’s a lot of things you have to get done before you get to the lights,” explains Blake McGrath of Summit Swing Stage, whose team has been working long hours to install the LEDs.

“There’s anchors to put in…cables to run, electrical connections to do, and then you finally get to install the light at the end.”

It’s one of the biggest projects McGrath’s company has ever been involved with. And one of the greatest challenges for him and his crew proved to be the city’s unforgiving weather.

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“It was nice working in minus 30. Snow on the sidewalk, trying to push your equipment,” he says.

David Hoeksema of EPCOR Technologies adds that the project has been complicated, but both he and McGrath feel it’s been very rewarding.

One of the requirements they’ve had to deal with was putting up the lights without affecting the integrity of the bridge, which is more than a century old.

So no holes were drilled in it; instead, there were a lot of calculations and projections.

“Every lighting designer in the city has thought of how they could light up the High Level Bridge…without it being an intrusion on the rest of the River Valley,” Hoeksema said.

The thousands of lights can all be controlled, and are expected to last anywhere from 10 to 15 years through the city’s freezing and scorching temperatures.

“We’re going to see some movement, different colours, different speeds of colour. We’re going to be able to honour certain events in Edmonton,” said Derek Pogany of Prolux Lighting. “We’re going to program it for Canada Day but our goal is to pass it off to the city.”

And of course, it wouldn’t have been possible without the more than 11,000 people and businesses who helped raise $2.5 million for the project.

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Many of those who made donations have a story attached to their light.

“There’s happy stories, there’s sad stories — all sorts of emotions involved in this project,” Prolux said.

“We had a lady who’s lived here her entire life, she’s 100 years old. She bought one light for every year she’s been alive…her father helped build the bridge,” added Dave Mowat, co-chair of Light the Bridge and president and CEO of ATB Financial.

You’ll be able to read the stories behind the donations on the Light the Bridge site starting July 1st. You’ll also be able to see the bridge lit up live on our News Hour Final that evening.

With files from Quinn Ohler, Global News

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