MISSOULA, Mont. - Missoula is known by some as the river city. Soon, two bridges that span the Clark Fork River will become a night time attraction.
A local non-profit called Light Our Bridges has raised almost enough money to illuminate the Madison Street under bridge and the Van Buren Street foot bridge. The Missoula City Council, the Parks and Recreation board, and the Missoula Downtown Association have already signed off on the project.
The total cost estimate - $170,000 - will be raised through private donations. We're told Light Our Bridges is only $25,000 away from meeting that goal.
Light Our Bridges committee member Geoff Badenoch says the idea for the project started with a trip to Europe by several Missoula residents who were impressed by the illuminated bridges of the Old World.
"I believe it was in Portugal, said Badenoch. "And it occurred to them (that) Missoula's a town that has bridges, (and) we should be doing that in our town."
Just over a year later, the non-profit has plans in place and has raised more than $140,000.
Badenoch says beauty isn't the only selling point.
"These two bridges are key bike pedestrian corridors. These are how bicyclists and pedestrians get across the river here, and it's where a lot of University foot traffic occurs," said Badenoch. "I think everyone in Missoula's concerned about public safety, especially at night, and anything we can do to enhance that is a step in the right direction."
Badenoch says public feedback made it clear residents didn't want anything too flashy. The plan is to line the suspension cables on the Madison Street under bridge with cool white LED bulbs and the frame of the Madison Street foot bridge will get LED's with a slightly warmer hue.
"It will be something where we'll see the architecture and engineering of the bridges, but it's not going to be a spectacle. It's not meant to be a light show. It's not meant to be Las Vegas. It's going to be very muted," said Badenoch.
And if all goes to according to plan, Badenoch says the Clark Fork River's other bridges could soon follow suit.
"We'll see it if works in Missoula. See if people like it. If it's something that the public likes, we have a process that we can go through, and the community can consider doing other bridges in the future."
To raise the final $25,000, Light Our Bridges has a campaign called "Light Our Way." For $25 dollars, people can purchase a bridge light in their name. That money will cover the material and installation costs.
Light Our Bridges committee members say the city pays for the electricity costs to power the lightbulbs, but they say the new led bulbs will actually be less expensive than the current lighting.
We're told work will start as early as this fall. For more information, click here.