Bridge lighting project moves ahead

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, May 19, 2009

NATCHEZ — For former Natchez mayor Larry L. “Butch” Brown a proud symbol of the Miss-Lou disappears each and every night.

During the day, the Mississippi River bridges stand as a strong link between Natchez and Vidalia. After the sun sets, the icon disappears in the darkness.

In less than a year, that will all change when the two bridges will be lit with aesthetic, roadway and safety lights.

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“It’s going to be the most beautiful bridge on the Mississippi River,” Brown said. “It’s going to be dramatic.”

Contract bids for the lighting of the Mississippi River bridges between Natchez and Vidalia will be opened on May 26, MDOT district engineer Darrell Broome said.

Estimated at $1 million, the project will include aesthetic lighting that will highlight the bridges’ steel and concrete structure and roadway lighting that will improve driving conditions on the bridges. Lights will delineate the outline of the bridges.

“It’s a very complicated system of wires and will require transformers, long-life bulbs and other sophisticated pieces of equipment,” Brown said.

The majority of the equipment will not be visible to drivers and has been designed to compliment the bridge, Broome said.

“Most of the lights will be mounted on the outside of the bridge and will not affect the vision of drivers,” Broome said.

Once bids are opened and a contract is awarded, construction could start as early as late July or August, Broome said.

Construction is expected to be complete in spring 2010.

The project is a joint effort between MDOT, the Louisiana Department of Transportation and the City of Vidalia. Vidalia is providing the power for the lights once construction is complete. The City of Natchez declined to participate in the project.

For Brown and area officials the bridge lighting will be an added attraction to the area.

Vidalia Mayor Hyram Copeland said he thinks that like other communities, the bridge could be another reason people come to the Miss-Lou.

“In Shreveport, for example, people come from all around just to see the bridge,” Copeland said. “This, too, could become a tremendous asset for the area.”

“For our visitors, they will be happy to come and sorry to leave,” Brown said about the lights.

But for Brown, the lighting project is more than a tourist attraction. The lighting project will also become a symbolic link that marries two communities that are closely related.

“Vidalia is a very integral part of Natchez,” Brown said. “The Miss-Lou is the Miss-Lou because of the Natchez-Vidalia bridges.”

“The Miss-Lou would be a misnomer without the bridges,” he said.

CLARIFICATION: The decision to not help contribute funding to help light the bridge was made seven years ago during the project’s intitial design, not by the current mayor and board of aldermen, according to Larry L. “Butch” Brown. City engineer David Gardner said the city helped with the preliminary designs of the project, including providing power estimates to the City of Vidalia.