City leaders see the Highway 18 overpass on Auburn Way South and North as an opportunity to promote events with lighting. ROBERT WHALE, Auburn Reporter

City leaders see the Highway 18 overpass on Auburn Way South and North as an opportunity to promote events with lighting. ROBERT WHALE, Auburn Reporter

City talks about making its light shine

Tunnel vision: Officials consider spending $50,000 to put in color-changing lighting at ‘gateway’

The city of Auburn sometimes hangs banners on the Highway 18 bridge over Auburn Way South and North to announce everything from the annual Veterans Day parade to Auburn Days and the Fourth of July Festival.

And if at some presently unimaginable day, the woeful Seattle Mariners should ever win a World Series – forget about that 21-1 pasting the Houston Astros administered the sorry sods last Sunday – there’d probably be a banner celebrating that miracle, too.

Now city leaders are talking about doing something else there – spending an estimated $50,000 to put in lighting that can change to all sorts of colors inside the tunnel.

For a splash of color, city leaders say.

Nothing’s been done, no plan approved, no go-ahead, not a penny spent to date.

But city leaders liked what Planning Director Jeff Tate was directing at their ears Monday evening at City Hall.

“It is a gateway; you’ve got people stopping in three or four directions going all those different places,” Council member Largo Wales said of the bridge. “It’s not a huge area, it’s an ugly area, and this would be an opportunity to take something kind of ugly and make it a (place of) civic warmth and celebration.”

Wales, a fierce budget hawk, said she always gets a bit edgy when somebody with stars in their eyes starts trotting out a mess of zeros, particularly if they are preceded by actual digits like 4 or 10 or 50. But this appears to be different.

“If it could done within our budget, considering the city’s significant financial limitations, if it could be done with a scrap here and a scrap there, I think we would make a pig’s ear into a silk purse right there,” Wales said. “We put all of our major banners there, it would be nice to do something that’s permanent and a little bit classy there.”

Councilmembers John Holman – a Washington State University alumnus – and Larry Brown – a UW alum, even playfully tossed about varying the lighting to purple or to crimson and gray, one may presume though they did not say, at Apple Cup time.

Tate said he got the idea cruising along Meeker Street in the city of Kent recently, eyeballing a similar project that that city completed about a year ago, under State Route 167. Intrigued, Tate said, he later reached out to Kent’s movers and shakers to find out what sort of process, especially involving a state-owned bridge, would entail.

“Whether one is heading north or south, the bridge is a gateway, up towards the Muckleshoot Plateau or down the hill, into downtown Auburn,” Tate said. “With a price tag of $50,000, this something constituents may ask you questions about, like, “Hey, what made you go decide to go forward with a concept like that?’ I don’t want to move forward on this unless the council has a certain comfort level.”

Tate added that to date, vandals have spared Kent’s project, and that city leaders there have told him it’s all been positive.

There will be similar discussions in the coming weeks

Eight years ago, council members Wales and Bill Peloza, concerned about the same “pig’s ear,” pushed to trim its weed-wild traffic medians.

The city of Kent plans to install lights similar to these along West Meeker Street in the State Route 167 underpass along West James Street. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent

The city of Kent plans to install lights similar to these along West Meeker Street in the State Route 167 underpass along West James Street. COURTESY PHOTO, City of Kent

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