By Kalli Damschen
Baylor is helping bring light to the surrounding community through the installation of new color-changing LED lights on the access road bridges along Interstate 35.
The lights were a project of the Texas Department of Transportation to improve the design of the bridges. Baylor provided $500,000 for the installation of color-changing lights.
Baylor joined the I-35 bridge lighting project because it was an opportunity to highlight the university’s partnership with the community and to help install lights that will “showcase and be a showpiece for Waco and Baylor,” said Smith Getterman, Baylor assistant director of sustainability and special projects.
“It’s an opportunity for us to highlight both Waco and Baylor,” Getterman said. “It will serve as a welcome to everybody coming through our community, and it’s just another great way for us to partner with our community.”
Waco City Manager Dale Fisseler said during the construction review that the city received monetary aid to help make up for a lack of funding.
“During the construction review, it was determined there wasn’t enough money in the budget from TxDOT to pay for the controller that actually controls the different colors of the lights,” Fisseler said. “It was about a $500,000 deficit. Baylor stepped up and paid the difference so that we could have colors in the lights instead of just plain white lights.”
Waco City Council member John Kinnaird, who represents the city on the I-35 Bridge Lighting Committee said he thinks the lights will have a positive impact on the community as a whole.
“The purpose of the lights is to showcase all the good things that are happening downtown and right along the river, to showcase our community as a whole,” Kinnaird said.
The LED lights can be programmed for almost any color combination or pattern, such as green and gold when Baylor is playing in the nearby McLane Stadium. The I-35 Bridge Lighting Committee is in charge of controlling the lighting on the bridge.
“There’s a committee that was set up by our city council that involves a representative from TxDOT, a representative from the city and a representative from Baylor,” Fisseler said.
Getterman serves as the Baylor representative on the committee, which will choose what colors and patterns the lights display.
“National holidays obviously have some colors already built into them,” Getterman said. “You do red, blue and white, or you do red and green for Christmas. Some of that’s pretty easy, but there will also be other occasions that we’ll recognize.”
The lighting displays won’t always follow a particular theme, either. At times, Getterman says, the LED lights will be like a rotating light show.
The changing lights won’t pose any traffic hazard, however. The Department of Transportation requires that the light show be safe, Kinnaird says, so the lights will transition in a way that won’t distract drivers.
The project began roughly a year ago, and testing is underway.