It’s a flipping of a switch that we have been waiting years to see… and it’s almost here! The historic Texas Street Bridge, soon to be known as the ‘Bakowski Bridge of Lights’ will be coming on in all its glory on 2-22-22, an auspicious ‘Twosday’.
To prepare for the fireworks show, the bridge will be closed to both motorist and pedestrian traffic beginning at 9 am and won’t reopen until 10 pm. The event will happen rain or shine and will include performances in Riverview Park, an arts market, food trucks, a mass wedding, fireworks and finally— an amazing lighting display that will show off everything the bridge lighting can do.
Parking will be in the casino parking garages as well as along Commerce Street, Texas, Milam and Travis Streets and farther into downtown. The event is free to attend and there will be food and beverage available for purchase. It’s going to be a fabulous, not-to-be-missed night, and we hope to see you there!

Story Posted November 2021
Work on the new ‘Bakowski Bridge of Lights’ over the Red River may mean a few traffic delays over the next 4-6 weeks. The contractor working on the bridge plans to switch the lane closures from the eastbound side to the westbound side the first of next week. The westbound lanes will be shut down for 4-6 weeks. This means the bridge will be open, but will be down to two lanes for the next several weeks. This changeover should take place on Monday, Nov. 15.

Meantime, work is ongoing on the LED lights that will soon festoon the bridge in ever-changing colors.

The installation of programmable LED lights on the Texas Street Bridge was nudged along in a big way by the generous $1m donation given by Dr. George and Sandra Bakowski, the Red River Waterway Commission, and Public Service Commission. Other project donors are Shreveport DDA and Shreveport Regional Arts Council, who are supporting the programming. SRACwill oversee tech educational opportunities for Shreveport students who can learn how to actually program the lighting on the bridge. It is hoped that the bridge will be lit and wonderful in time for the ringing in of 2022.



Sept. 15, 2021 Article

Work has started on downtown’s Long-Allen Bridge to bring it back to ‘light.’ The ‘Bakowski Bridge of Lights’ should take four months to complete and until it is, there will be intermittent lane closures. For the next four weeks, one of the eastbound lanes will be closed to traffic. Once finished, the bridge will be lighted, colorful and fabulous.

Read the 64 Parishes article on the Bakowski Bridge of Lights

The “Neon Bridge” in better days. Photo credit- Neil Johnson.

Artist Rockne Krebs. Photo credit-Neil Johnson.

The structure, also regularly called the ‘Texas Street Bridge’, burst onto the art world in 1993 when then-Mayor Hazel Beard first turned on the neon lights. The art piece was shepherded by the Shreveport Regional Arts Council, and the creation of artist Rockne Krebs, a man who wanted to oversee a ‘striking piece of visual art.’ Krebs, of Washington, D.C., used his experience in light and lasers to create his local work, a piece comprised of mostly red neon tubes interspersed seemingly randomly across the structure. The Long-Allen/ Texas Street Bridge became known as the Neon Bridge, the subject of thousands of photos and stories.

For 23 years, the Neon Bridge stayed mostly lit, but then, more and more tubes started to fail. Neon is a wonderful look, but it is old technology and the stresses on the bridge- the constant vibrations and occasional hailstorms- caused issues. On one of his art blogs, artist Krebs remembered that “the tubes began to fail and be replaced, but eventually the speed at which the neon failed outstripped the maintenance money to replace them.” Just five years after Krebs passed away in 2011, the bridge went dark and has remained so until now.

Photo courtesy 318Forum.

Enter local optometrist Dr. George Bakowski and wife Sandra. Several years ago, Dr. Bakowski decided the bridge was worth renewing and approached the Downtown Development Authority and Shreveport Regionals Arts Council (SRAC) with a proposal. He offered to donate $1,000,000 to once again light the bridge. It was a generous offer from a man who wanted to do something big to instill civic pride— and it was an offer that was too good to pass up. The timing was perfect because there was studier new LED lighting technology available that could actually be programmed to change color. By then, there were also plans in the works at the state to strip, rehab and repaint the 1934 bridge.

Though the timing was good, it would be foolish to say that all the parts fell easily into place. They did not. There were 1,000,000+ reasons not to move forward. The project needed ‘cat herding’ at the highest level.  SRAC Executive Director Pam Atchison and Shreveport Public Assembly and Recreation (SPAR) director Shelly Ragle did what they do best- they kept herding.  They found other partners to match the $1m Bakowski donation- the Red River Waterway Commission, the Louisiana Public Service Commission, the Downtown Development Authority and private donor Will Atkins- helped. They patiently answered everyone’s many questions, addressed concerns and finally found consensus.

An example of what an LED bridge can look like. This is the Big Four Bridge lit by LED in Louisville, Kentucky.

Original donor Bakowski was hoping to celebrate his 50th wedding anniversary in 2020 with wife Sandra on ‘their’ new bridge. He missed that anniversary, but is pleased that there will be others— and that the bridge that meant so much to so many and that was a source of pride, will soon be brightly lit again.

Installation of the new lights began Wednesday, Sept. 1 and the hope is the bridge will be bright and colorful again for festivities as 2021 rolls into 2022. Hat’s off to the Bakowskis for their generosity, and to all of those who would not let the dream of a lighted bridge die.

Press Release from Mayor Adrian Perkins announcing the work started Sept. 1, 2021.