TORRANCE, Calif., June 16 -- LA Mayor James Hahn threw the switch this week on
a long-awaited enhancement to the Vincent Thomas Bridge, in San Pedro, Calif.:
new blue LED lights, provided by LEDtronics Inc., along its suspension cables.
Funding, energy shortages, migrating birds and a pair of nesting peregrine falcons
had all thwarted previous attempts to string lights across the mile-long span.
But advances in lighting technology enabled the solution: LEDs, which were unavailable
when the campaign to light the bridge started in 1988.
The bridge, known as "San Pedro's Golden Gate," is the official welcoming
monument for the City of Los Angeles. As the third longest suspension bridge in
California -- behind the Golden Gate and San Francisco-Oakland Bay Bridge -- it
is a source of local pride and a main conduit through which goods flow from Los
Angeles Harbor. The bridge lighting began as a grassroots effort by residents
of San Pedro, who held fund raisers and kept community support for the project
Pervaiz Lodhie, president of LEDtronics, proposed the idea of implementing
solar-energy in tandem with the LED lights. A 4.5-kilowatt solar-panel system
located near the bridge generates electricity that is then sold to the Los Angeles
Department of Water and Power. While the LED lights themselves do not directly
tap into the solar-generated power, the bridge is the first of its kind to use
solar-generated power to pay for the cost of operating decorative lighting.
A total of 160 LED fixtures light both sides of the bridge -- 80 LEDtronics
units affixed to the apex of the suspension cables along with an additional
80 located at deck level. Each LED fixture consumes only 19.5 watts of power.
Several variations of LED lamps were tested; blue was chosen to stand out amid
the amber-colored lights and maritime navigation indicators in the harbor. The
blue LED lamps "work as we expected, but seeing all the LED lamps lit up
was amazing," Lodhie said.