Lights will shine on new Pawtucket River Bridge

A big celebration is planned this weekend for the new Pawtucket River Bridge.

The bridge took three years to build at a cost of $83 million, with 80 percent paid for by the federal government.

But it's the art deco ornamentation and dazzling light display that will have everyone talking.

Wings that will light up at night are borrowed from the 1930s architecture that graces Pawtucket City Hall.

"Intent of making it more than just a slab of concrete that's thrown up there," Mayor Donald Grebien said.

Lights are digitally programmed.

"There are 16 million different colors out there to coordinate. We're going to be able to do different events. Fourth of July -- the red, white and blues and St. Patrick's Day. We're going to be able to celebrate all the cultures in Rhode Island," Grebien said.

The Pawtucket River Bridge spans the flow from the Blackstone River that becomes the Seekonk River. There is no Pawtucket River per se. How Rhode Island is that?

The main structure replaces the old one that was built in 1958, but because of lack of maintenance, lasted only a half century.

This one is designed to last more than 100 years, and it plays off the rich history of the city as it points toward the future.

"Obviously at first, they didn't want a standard bridge because they thought that it's a gateway to the city," said Vartan Sahakian of Commonwealth Engineers.

"The notion of bringing architecture back in to engineering or any kind of design is something that unfortunately we have lost, and I think this bridge really brings it back. I think that's one of the things about this project that was so unbelievable," said Richard Ventrone, of Ventrone Architecture.

Finishing the bridge is just the first step in what Grebien said is part of the bigger plan of reconnecting the riverfront all the way down to Slater Mill.

"We're going to be doing a bike path and open access," Grebien said. "It's going to be something so much more, and something the state of Rhode Island has never seen.

The Pawtucket River Bridge came in $17 million under the original budget and it was finished on schedule.

The lighting will be part of the Pawtucket Arts Festival this weekend.