Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge

    Corpus Christi, Texas, USA

    Photo Credits: Tumlinson Photography

    A beautiful gateway illuminates a harbor city

    With a steel truss spanning 190 m (620 ft) and rising 42 m (138 ft) above the ship channel, the Corpus Christi Harbor Bridge is a prominent feature of the city's skyline. Originally built in the 1950s, the bridge serves as a gateway to the city, and separates the city's two main sources of income—tourism, which is centered on the bayfront, and oil, with miles of refineries lining the channel.

    Much of the bridge's lighting system had been corroded by the severe environment of the Gulf Coast — including extreme heat, harsh winds, and salt water. As a result, the lights were turned off and the bridge remained dark for more than a decade. City Mayor Joe Adame had learned about the benefits and applications of LED lighting at The United States Conference of Mayors in 2010; he was certain it was the right technology to relight the bridge and create a signature feature for the city.

    Terry Orf, Senior Architect at Naismith Engineering, Inc., was the lead on the project. Because the funding was coming from a variety of sources, Orf was under pressure to find an LED lighting system that would not only meet the technical specifications of the job but would also meet the quality and reliability standards of the investors. Orf turned to local lighting representative, Spectrum Lighting, for help. Spectrum recommended Color Kinetics and furnished materials to support Orf's case. Their presentation outlined the creative potential of LED technology, included multiple renderings and digital shows to demonstrate effects that could be achieved, and listed local sites that were already successfully using Color Kinetics LED lighting systems.

    Orf tested a variety of LED lighting systems. He asked competing companies to send LED lighting fixtures pre-programmed with a Fourth of July lightshow that would showcase light intensity and programming capabilities. Color Kinetics won the job for a variety of reasons. "I looked down at my light meter and was amazed at the output that I was measuring and seeing from the fixtures. The Color Kinetics fixtures were four times the intensity of the competitors," says Orf. "The Color Kinetics LED lighting system was also simple to install and to program — basically, plug and go." The IP rating was also a major factor in Orf's decision. To prove out the ability of Color Kinetics products to withstand the corrosive Gulf Coast environment, the city of Corpus Christi funded two smaller pilot projects with Color Kinetics lighting — one on wind vanes in the downtown area, and one on the local amphitheater.

    Funding of 1.9 million was secured for the project, with the majority coming from Texas Department of Transportation and additional funding split between the Port and the City. To accomplish the goals of the project, an additional $300K was needed. An anonymous donor came forward with the remaining money to keep the project moving. At the unveiling ceremony, this anonymous donor was revealed—American Bank, a local Texas business, had provided the additional funds in honor of its 40th anniversary. The venture would now be the result of a private and public partnership.

    Orf used Color Kinetics iColor Accent MX Powercore luminaires to create a low-resolution video wall across the main arc of the structure. He used ColorReach Powercore (now specified with ReachElite) and ColorBlast Powercore luminaires to illuminate the under-roadway steel structures on both sides of the arc. Overall, the bridge has more than 11,000 individually addressable color-changing nodes, all controlled using a Pharos LPC X LED lighting controller.

    Two days before the unveiling ceremony, frequencies from the ship channel were interfering with the programming and the lights were not working. Orf called the Applications Engineering team at Color Kinetics, who immediately began programming new software to resolve the situation.

    Orf was impressed with the high level of customer service he received. "I got an immediate response and a solution within hours from the Color Kinetics Applications Engineering team, and the unveiling ceremony went off without a hitch. The quality and expertise of Color Kinetics LED lighting systems is reflected in their customer service—the commitment continues long after the sale is made."

    The newly lit bridge has become a local attraction, creating buzz about Corpus Christi and making a tremendous impact on the local economy. The motels facing the bridge sell out on a regular basis, and to dine at many of the restaurants overlooking you must reserve a table at least a month in advance. The light shows, programmed by Orf, change on a monthly basis. Orf's recent favorite synchronized the lighting with a live performance of the Corpus Christi Symphony Orchestra, turning the bridge into an enormous graphic equalizer.

    "Our Harbor Bridge has been an icon in the community for many years and since the re-lighting with LED fixtures, it has become a new dimension of pride for our community," says Mayor Joe Adame.
    Project credits

    Lighting Designer/Architect

    Terry Orf, AIA

    Naismith Engineering


    General Contractor:

    Steve Roberts


    Manufacturer Representative

    Spectrum Lighting Inc., San Antonio, Texas


    John Rodriguez, PE

    NRG Engineering


    Electrical Contractor:

    Charlie Pfeiffer 

    Pfeiffer and Son LTD



    Facility Solutions Group

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