Media Advisory: USGS Data Lights the Way for Tilikum Crossing

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Tonight, the Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People, will brighten Portland’s skyline when the bridge’s aesthetic nighttime light program is permanently switched on.

PORTLAND, Ore. — Tonight, the Tilikum Crossing, Bridge of the People, will brighten Portland’s skyline when the bridge’s aesthetic nighttime light program is permanently switched on.

The bridge lighting is an artistic blend of art and science using U.S. Geological Survey water-quality and streamflow data collected from the Willamette River at the Morrison Street Bridge.

Data from the Willamette River are translated by specialized software and displayed along the cables and pillars of the new bridge using LED lights. According to TriMet:

  • There are 178 LED lights aesthetically placed on 40 bridge cables, the four transmission towers above and below the deck, and on the Sonic Dish artwork along the Eastside Esplanade and future Willamette Greenway at the ends of the bridge.
  • The lights change colors based on the Willamette River's speed, height and water temperature.
  • Specialized software designed by programmer Morgan Barnard takes that data and translates it into movements of color and light across the bridge.
  • The water temperature determines the base color.
  • The river's speed controls the pace the colors change and move across the bridge.
  • The river's height is displayed by a second color that moves vertically up and down the towers and the cables.

The water-quality monitor at the Morrison Street Bridge “Super Site” is an advanced data-collection platform that measures standard and state-of-the-art water data.  The site measures water speed, direction, depth, temperature, dissolved oxygen, pH and conductivity, as well as turbidity, phycocyanin, chlorophyll, nitrate and fluorescent dissolved organic matter. 

Together, these data streams give a comprehensive, real-time picture of hydrologic conditions in the Willamette River.  The data directly assist regulatory agencies, resource managers, fishermen, recreationists and the public in their protection, stewardship, use and enjoyment of our hometown river. In the longer term, the accumulated data will be the basis for a better understanding of the dynamics of this invaluable regional asset.

The Morrison Street Bridge “Super Site” is supported by the USGS National Water Quality Assessment Program, the Portland Bureau of Environmental Services and Portland State University. Data are continuously displayed at PSU Science Building 2 and the Oregon Museum of Science and Technology, and are available to the public online at the USGS Oregon Water Science Center website