Green energy: in California the Coronado Bridge lights up San Diego’s bay

Over 50 years after its inauguration, the bridge remains an absolute icon of beauty and infrastructural functionality.

The California state authorities allocated $14 million in recent weeks to modernize the safety system built on the Coronado bridge as part of a broader plan to secure and upgrade California’s bridges.

Among these, the Coronado Bridge holds a special place due to its history, aesthetic beauty, engineering complexity, but also its capacity for innovation. The bridge is now the testing ground for North America‘s largest interactive green lighting project. Its structure will be innovatively illuminated thanks to a project developed by an international team of architects that relies on a LED lighting system powered by wind turbines. The force of the wind will produce the energy needed to light up the bridge with colorful and changing lights, the best solution to emphasize the spectacular nature of this work and the surrounding bay.

All about the Coronado Bridge

Spending just a few hours in the San Diego Bay allows witnessing the incredible spectacle of the U.S. Navy aircraft carriers passing under the Coronado Bridge’s span. Observing those giants smoothly sail under the bridge is a unique emotion, ensured by the infrastructure’s measurements, which, although not a suspension bridge, reaches a height of 61 meters above sea level in its central part.

Overall, the bridge is 3.4 kilometers long, with a maximum span of 573 meters, and it curves significantly, allowing for an almost 90-degree angle over the bay.

Moreover, it is an exceptional transportation artery as part of California’s Route 75, one of the most important roads in the state. Its architectural beauty earned it the Most Beautiful Bridge Award from the American Institute of Steel Construction in 1970, just a year after its inauguration.

Supported by immense pillars that sink into the seabed, the bridge’s exceptional feature is also the incredible panorama it offers, spanning from Downtown San Diego to Coronado Island, which has always been a small but rich community with luxurious villas and beautiful beaches.

The Birth of a Great Project

The history of the Coronado Bridge officially began on August 2, 1969, when the structure was inaugurated with pomp by then-California Governor Ronald Reagan. Alongside the former actor who would become the President of the United States a few years later, thousands of people, including cyclists, mariachi bands, runners, curious onlookers, and souvenir vendors, crossed the bridge. For the first time, it replaced the ferries that had served for 83 years, transporting people and vehicles across the San Diego Bay.

The first designs for a bridge spanning that stretch of the sea were presented as early as 1926. Some proposed the idea of a bridge, while others suggested building a railway line beneath the sea surface. The idea of the bridge was abandoned for some time until the 1950s when cars began to dominate California, leading to traffic congestion in its major cities. This led to the construction of bridges to reduce traffic and facilitate transportation within and outside urban areas.

This brought the idea of a bridge over the San Diego Bay back into the spotlight. Despite opposition from some residents, the project was taken up again, resulting in a much larger bridge than initially imagined, particularly with spans high enough to accommodate the passage of U.S. Navy ships, as the bay houses one of their significant bases.

During its construction, a national survey was conducted to decide on the bridge’s name. In June 1968, when Senator Robert Kennedy was assassinated in Los Angeles after delivering a public speech in San Diego, many proposed that the bridge be named in his honor. However, local authorities preferred to give the bridge a name linked to the territory, and thus, the San Diego-Coronado Bridge was chosen. Yet, even today, those living in the area simply refer to it as the Coronado Bridge.

Finally, at 12:01 on Sunday, August 3, 1969, the first car crossed the bridge. In the first month, a total of 740,000 crossings were recorded, demonstrating from the beginning how this engineering marvel would change the lives of San Diego residents.