Check out the new lights on the Hoan Bridge! Plus, find out how it got done


The Hoan Bridge, which carries Interstate 794 over the harbor, the Summerfest grounds, and even the Jones Island Sewage Treatment plant (what a combo), is both major transportation artery and a city landmark. These distinctive arches welcome ships from Lake Michigan, speed drivers in and out of downtown, and even serve as cover for some Summerfest shows.

The distinctive look of the bridge during the day, which its yellow arches, liken it to a McDonald's in the opinion of many (including me) during the day. But at night, you only see the streetlights that give drivers a nighttime view of the road deck (from the bridge, though, the city skyline heading northbound looks spectacular.)

I'd long thought that giving it dynamic LED lighting at night could launch night views of the bridge and city to the next level - and then somebody else actually did it. Ian Abston is one of the people who has led the charge to "Light the Hoan," and with the help of numerous others undertook that effort in earnest several years ago. The challenges were there: how can you navigate layers of government bureaucracy, mobilize support, secure funding, and get it done? Ian Abston talked with me about how non-profit "Light The Hoan" worked to light up Milwaukee nights and give anyone a chance to leave their mark on this major span back in 2019, and you can hear that podcast called "Lights, Bridge, Action!" at this link, or stream it below.

The good update news is, the lights on the city-facing side have been installed and they're currently in testing mode. The light is brilliant, crisp, and can change colors and even move as patterns. I as able to take this shot on Wednesday night the 24th, when it was a brilliant blue. After I was almost home again, I looked back and saw it showcasing about 9 or 10 colors across the span and arches. But I stuck with this picture.

The testing will continue for a week or two, and the permanent lighting of the Hoan should commence in late October. Look for it and enjoy - it will be visible for miles!

The LED lights on the Hoan Bridge, Sept. 24, 2020

The LED lights on the Hoan Bridge, Sept. 24, 2020

Photo credit: me, last night

Here's my EricCast episode where I talked with Ian Abston about the whole endeavor: