I-35W bridge shines light on Minneapolis skyline – and charities

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Ever wonder why the Interstate 35W bridge changes colors?

Motorists know that the span over the Mississippi River is typically illuminated at night in a shade of blue (which is meant to symbolize water), but a few times a month, the Minnesota Department of Transportation changes the chameleon bridge's colors.

On Tuesday night, the bridge was lit in four different shades of blue.

Post by National Parkinson Foundation Minnesota.

There are more than a dozen holidays and events when the bridge is specially lit, according to Hennepin County's website, which include major holidays like Christmas (red and green), Memorial Day (red, white and blue), New Year's Day (red, white and blue), among others, and also special events like the University of Minnesota homecoming (maroon and gold) and home openers of Minnesota's professional sports teams (the bridge is lit in the team's colors). For a complete list, click here.

“When the Lynx won the championship, we lit it for them,” John Pederson, the lighting operations supervisor with MnDOT, told WCCO. “They didn’t request it. We just did it.”

Organizations can also apply to have the bridge lit up, which can help raise awareness for certain causes.

“I love all the chatter on social media,” Anne Carlson, the executive director of the Colon Cancer Coalition, told WCCO, which examined the issue as part of its "Good Question" feature. “Why is the bridge blue, why is the bridge orange ... because it gets people to dig into why it is.”

Last month the bridge was royal blue to symbolize the fight against colon cancer. The span has also been rainbow-colored for pride festivals, teal to kick off Ovarian Cancer Awareness Month and pink for breast cancer awareness.

The county notes that birthdays, personal anniversaries and other events considered "private in nature" will not be considered. Click here to apply.

There is no additional cost to light the bridge in color. In fact, the lights are LED fixtures, which are more energy efficient than many other lighting options – so the fixtures ultimately save MnDOT money. Also, LED fixtures don't burn out, they just get dimmer and dimmer, and in 15 to 20 years, MnDOT will change the fixtures, Pederson told WCCO.

Plus, the colors on the bridge are easy to change – Pederson can program any color from his computer at MnDOT's Roseville offices, WCCO says.

The Mill City Times has highlighted some its favorite lighting schemes. Click here for photos, taken by Twin Cities photographer John A. Weeks III, of the bridge lit up at night.

MPR News got an inside look at the structure of the 35W bridge back in 2012, click here to read more.

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