Bascule bridge lights on wish list of improvements for Lorain | Lorain County

Lorain’s Charles Berry Bascule Bridge eventually will get new lights to illuminate the city landmark at night.

Local leaders said they support the project, but it won’t happen soon or be cheap.

When the lighting went dark some years ago, Lorain residents noticed.

Trudy Salim said about four years ago, she called the Lorain County commissioners, who oversee local operation of the bridge, to ask about the lighting. She did so again about a year ago.

“The lighting of the bridge was such an asset for Lorain and an attraction that brought people to Lorain,” Salim said.

With the Broadway streetscape, the renovation of the Ariel Broadway Hotel and Rockin’ on the River at Black River Landing, “the lighting is the icing on the cake for not only downtown Lorain, but the entire city,” she said.

During the summer, she and her husband volunteer plucking dead blossoms in the Rose Garden at Lakeview Park, another iconic location in Lorain.

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This screen from Lorain County’s official website,, includes information about the former aesthetic lighting of the Charles Berry Bascule Bridge in Lorain.

“We are surprised by the number of visitors from other cities who come to visit and see the roses, Salim said. “They are wowed by Lakeview Park. The lighting of the bridge is a big wow that likewise would attract much needed attention and visits to Lorain.”

Bridge upgrades

This summer the Ohio Department of Transportation is finishing a two-year, $26.33 million overhaul to paint and replace the motors and gear boxes inside the world’s second largest bascule bridge. It has become a symbol of Lorain.

The project included new street lights on top and new traffic signals to stop drivers when the bridge leaves, or decks, lift up to allow freighters or sailboats to pass underneath.

The budget did not include money for night lights for the criss-crossing steel beams that hold up the bridge decks. Those lights were never part of the project scope, said Crystal Neelon, spokeswoman at ODOT’s District 3 headquarters.

“The purpose of the Charles Berry Bridge project was to address structural deficiencies and deteriorating conditions of the bridge and to update the mechanics of the bridge,” she said.

Some of the old aesthetic lighting devices had to be removed in order to complete the current project updates, but none of those devices were working prior to being removed, Neelon said.

“There are a few pieces of equipment from the old lighting that are still there that was not in the way of the project, but they are outdated and obsolete by today’s measures,” she said.

City and county

The bridge is owned by ODOT but maintained by the Lorain County commissioners.

The county leaders intend to pursue new lighting for the bridge, said Commissioner Lori Kokoski and county Administrator James Cordes.

The commissioners have not taken action yet because ODOT has not formally signed off that the reconstruction is complete, Cordes said.

“But when it’s all said and done and everything’s finished, we hope to put together an initiative and relight the bridge,” he said. The novel coronavirus pandemic also forced Lorain County and other local governments to focus on public health and safety concerns, so many projects have been delayed, Cordes said.

House lights on

The commissioners included aesthetic lighting when the historic Lorain County Courthouse had a major remodeling that started in 2017, Kokoski said.

The regular yellow-white lights highlight the building’s architecture, while colored lights show support for good causes in the community. For example, the courthouse was lit with purple tones for Overdose Awareness Day on Aug. 31.

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This photo, taken from the Lorain County Commission’s official website, shows Lorain’s Charles Berry Bascule Bridge at night. For the last two years, the Ohio Department of Transportation has overseen a major restoration of the bridge. But that project does not include money for aesthetic lights to illuminate the bridge at night, according to ODOT.

Kokoski said the beauty of the luminous effects brought tears to her eyes when county leaders dedicated the remodeled courthouse.

“I can’t wait till we light the bridge up again too,” Kokoski said. “It really showcases Lorain and Black River Landing, especially when they have concerts down there.”

In past Rockin’ on the River summer shows, Lorain Mayor Jack Bradley said he has seen visitors leave their seats to walk up for a closer view of passing freighters when the Charles Berry Bascule Bridge decks arise. Lighting the bridge at night would help, he said.

“I think anything we could add to make the tourist experience better is certainly an asset to our city,” Bradley said.

Project cost

Although the city and county leaders were supportive, it was not immediately clear how to pay for the project.

The last bridge lighting project cost $250,000 in 2007, with money coming from ODOT, Lorain County, the city of Lorain and the Lorain Port Authority.

Bradley said he is not averse to teaming up again for a new lighting project.

He and Cordes said the lights likely will cost even more money now, but Cordes noted technology also has gotten much better, with new LED lights and wireless computer controls available.

On Aug. 24, state Rep. Gayle Manning announced the Ohio Controlling Board approved $480,000 for the county for the annual maintenance of the bridge.

Coming through ODOT, that money pays for nuts and bolts, but not decorative lighting, Manning said.

The situation is not unique to Lorain, Manning said, noting the state transportation agency may assist communities with planning for aesthetic effects for projects, but not paying for it.

Keep the lights on

Once installed, the lights may be relatively cheap to turn on.

The county commissioners’ website said the 2007 lights cost less than $1 a day to light the bridge about five hours a night.

At another local landmark and navigation aid, high-powered lights shine on the Lorain Lighthouse so it is visible from shore at night. During the summer, the monthly electric bill is about $130, much of it paying for those exterior lights, said Lorain Lighthouse Foundation President Ron Mantini.

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