Bay Lights give Bay Bridge a moment to shine

THE EMBARCADERO — Having always served in the shadow of its younger cousin the Golden Gate Bridge, the Bay Bridge has rarely outshined its counterpart linking Marin County to San Francisco.

Tuesday night was one of those times.

Built in 1936, the eight-mile Bay Bridge span celebrates its 77th birthday this November with the opening of the new retrofitted Eastern span on Labor Day weekend.

25,000 LED lights strung along the cables of the Western span of the Bay Bridge lit up the skyline Tuesday night, bringing smiles to those who braved the cold, windy rain.

Artist Leo Villareal has managed to transform the all-business, workman-like Bay Bridge with his two-year project called The Bay Lights.

People from all over the Bay Area came to witness a remarkable light show including John Gage and Linda Schacht of Berkeley. Gage told SFBay:

“It’s wonderful and it’s going to be permanent.”

The hard part was getting the money and the permits to complete the project. Privately funded at a cost of six million dollars, the Bay Bridge will remain lit through 2015.

Many though, including San Francisco Mayor Ed Lee, think the Bay Lights will soon be a permanent fixture. Schacht, 67 says it’ll be great for the restaurants and bars that line the waterfront:

“Tourists will come just to see this.”

Gage said the lighted artwork serves as inspiration for romantic lines based on the lights, like:

“I ripple just as the lights do when I’m near you.”

Also awe-inspired by the lights was 26-year-old San Francisco native Vanessa Kramer:

“Being around the same age as the Golden Gate Bridge it’s been undermined for such a long time.  It’s finally been given its time to shine, literally!”

The Western span from Treasure Island to San Francisco will be lit up on its North side from dusk until 2 a.m. every night. For more information, visit thebaylights.org.