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Toledo Lights Up Skyway for New Year

Fri January 11, 2008 - Midwest Edition
Linda J. Hutchinson

After nearly 20 years of planning, five years of construction and $234 million, the I-280 Veteran’s Glass City Skyway (VGCS) opened to traffic on June 24 and was center stage for Ohio’s New Year’s Eve light show.

“Beginning at dusk, the pylon glowed with a straw-like yellow that was slowly replaced, starting from the top, with scarlet,” said Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) spokesperson Theresa Pollick.

By 11:59 p.m. the panels became completely scarlet and the yellow color began to climb back up the pylon. At 12:01:01 a.m., squares of five different shades dropped from the top to the pylon’s midway point, illustrating confetti.

“The light show is not only a celebration of the holiday, but also the accomplishment of planning, designing, and building the Veteran’s Glass City Skyway itself,” Pollick said. “Now that the bridge is open to traffic, we can hope for a new year of local and statewide economic growth because of this landmark in Ohio’s transportation system.”

At the opening gala last spring, Steve Herwat, interim vice president of transportation, Toledo Metropolitan Area Council of Governments said, “I think the citizens got it right … It is a monument to what we can do together as a region when we all strive together for a common dream.”

Even though the New Year’s Eve festivities may have been hampered by a snowstorm, few would disagree with Herwat.

After sunrise on Jan. 2, a light show began which features a winter display of digital white “snow” falling against a blue background. The “snow” will pile up until reaching the top, then the scene will reset and repeat until Feb. 7.

The pylon, which is the centerpiece of the VGCS rises 400 ft. (121 m) out of the middle of the river. The first in the United States to use a stainless steel stay-cable cradle system, the span has been touted as an engineering marvel.

Known as “The Glass City,” Toledo’s bridge has become the world’s first to use glass in the pylon’s design. Glass panels have been installed on all four sides of the pylon and are illuminated by an advanced LED lighting system. Ninety-six LED fixtures have been installed in each quadrant, with a total of 13,824 computer-controlled LED lights, allowing the use of each primary color and an unlimited array of blended colors to depict scenes, special tricks, dances, and color magic.

The VGCS is the largest, most expensive and most complicated single project ever undertaken in the history of ODOT. Funding for the project, formerly known as the Maumee River Crossing, has been in place since 1999. The environmental impact studies were completed in 1996.

The pre-cast segmented cable-stayed bridge structure was designed by Figg Bridge Engineers and is considered to be a major architectural, engineering, and transportation asset for Northwest Ohio. The bridge structure extends from south of the Greenbelt Parkway to near Seaman Street on the south end.

The bridge boasts 181 piers, 190 spans, and is 8,800 ft. (2682 m) long. Twenty stays radiate out from the center pylon.

The recent snow and ice storm has brought another issue to the forefront that had been thought to be of little concern, that of ice falling from the stay cables. Two lanes were recently closed due to a collision where falling ice is thought to have been a contributing factor. Two other vehicles were damaged by ice shards. ODOT will now have to decide if recent weather warrants countermeasures to deal with the potential of falling ice on the span.

“We had freezing rain and ice for three days, so there was a good accumulation. Then we had all that rain, which made it melt, and it just started peeling off,” Pollick said. “You have to think how often that happens. It’s just a rare situation.”

Although open to traffic, the bridge will not be complete until dampers are installed at the bases of the Skyway’s 20 stay cables. The dampers have been slow to arrive, delaying the installation of upward-shining lights in the structure’s median.

According to one photographer, a combination of the weather and the missing lighting made getting photos of the New Year’s light show impossible. Also absent from Toledo’s celebration this year were fireworks and a downtown event.

The Toledo Light Show Subcommittee is made up of representatives of neighborhood groups and public agencies. They are responsible for programming the light shows for 25 holidays and special events in 2008. CEG

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