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Sakonnet River Bridge

WSP USA developed the lighting concepts for the Sakonnet River Bridge, which connects Townsend and Portsmouth, Rhode Island. After approval of the lighting concepts, we developed the final lighting design and control system which included custom-built color changing light guides integrated into pole structures along the bridge. This pole, with its color changing effects, is the first of its kind. We also developed color schemes associated with various holidays and occasions requested by RIDOT.


Designers faced the challenge of bringing charisma to the new Sakonnet River Bridge. To complete this goal, a control system to support the dynamic lighting scheme had to be introduced as practical for the roadway authority to maintain. Winning over residents of neighboring townships would also be instrumental in the success of the new lighting design. Furthermore, a cable-stay lighting approach was suggested, but a box-beam style bridge would be implemented.

The concept included showcasing the box-beam bridge’s girder and pier architecture while elevating its overall presence on the street level. The idea involved glowing luminaires poised down the center median to guide drivers across the Sakonnet River with a dazzling display of color-change dynamics. The luminaires would be towering pipe structures derived from light poles in Sweden. Lighting equipment would be hidden and built into LED tubes. These innovative custom luminaires would be glowing wonders and bring enjoyment to both neighbors and travelers alike.

In collaboration with manufacturers, a custom integrated tubular glowing effect was created within the luminaires. The luminous pipe structures rise to 35 feet with 320 watt metal halide tenon-mount arms spanning out to-20 feet. Six-inch- (15-centimeter-) diameter tubes house quality 40-watt RGB LEDs that provide energy and maintenance cost savings over $375 and $2,300 per year, respectively. Following IESNA RP8 Roadway Standards of 0.6 average luminance and 0.3 maximum veiling luminance ratios, the lights at full cutoff are able to impress without compromising light levels or visibility on the roadway. The color-change lights are programmed to articulate over 25 holiday lighting schemes throughout the year through a DMX lighting control system. The controls maintain the light levels and subsequently the longer life span of the LEDs. Given sole rights and access, the controls are as flexible as the client prefers.