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Published: Saturday, 6/16/2007

Bridge s unique look turns up in logos, merchandise, and signs

BY TOM TROY
BLADE STAFF WRITER
A Lamar Advertising billboard at Erie Street and the Anthony Wayne Trail features a pylon with cables strung to appear to hold up the lighted signs. A Lamar Advertising billboard at Erie Street and the Anthony Wayne Trail features a pylon with cables strung to appear to hold up the lighted signs.
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There s the Eiffel Tower, Big Ben, and the Gateway Arch.

Now there s the Veterans Glass City Skyway.

OK, so it doesn t trip off the tongue like those other architectural marvels. But the distinctive, brilliantly lit cable-stayed bridge promises to say "Toledo" regionally as surely as those famous landmarks say Paris, London, and St. Louis.

The bridge design has been showing up in logos, merchandise, and municipal signage since not long after the design was selected.

Expect to see more. Lots more.

The Downtown Toledo Parking Authority and the Downtown Toledo Improvement District both use the bridge in their logos. "We thought it was a very progressive image," said Clayton Johnston, president of the parking authority.

Many people who pass through Toledo going to and from other places will quickly come to recognize the bridge as Toledo, he said.

A billboard on the Trail posted by a Chevy Olds dealer features the bridge shape and declares the I-280 crossing a  Dunn deal.  A billboard on the Trail posted by a Chevy Olds dealer features the bridge shape and declares the I-280 crossing a Dunn deal.
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"It s going to make Toledo readily identifiable throughout the Midwest," Mr. Johnston said.

Former Mayor Jack Ford incorporated the planned bridge shape in his Welcome to Toledo signs in 2003. The cable-stayed bridge design was dropped from the signs after they were repainted by Mayor Carty Finkbeiner s administration.

But the bold inverted "V" is the distinctive element in the logo on the city s Web site, http://toledo.oh.gov. And it s the design element in "Gateway to the Great Lakes" banners the administration has hung in Levis Square downtown.

While other cities have cable-stayed bridges Boston, Hong Kong, and the Tampa Bay area of Florida, among them, Toledo s is the only one with a lighted central pylon.

"There are other bridges that look like that, but they re not multicolor bridges," said Mary Chris Skeldon, who chaired a party last month to raised money for a sculpture to memorialize the workers. "It s unbelievable how brilliant the colors are. It s kind of like a bridge of the future," Ms. Skeldon said.

Steve Nathanson, chairman of the citizens bridge task force since before architect Figg Engineering Group of Tallahassee, Fla., proposed the design in 2000, said the designers came up with the idea of a lighted pylon after citizens meeting in workshops agreed the new bridge should reflect Toledo s history as a glass-making city.

He said the bridge looks to him like a sail on the horizon as he approaches from the east, evoking the role of boating in Toledo-area industry and recreation.

And he said he can t think of another Ohio city with a similarly identifiable landmark. "I think it ll become incredibly recognizable. It s visible from so far. I believe this is unique," Mr. Nathanson said. "To me this is similar to the arch [in St. Louis]."

City Council President Rob Ludeman said he expects the adjacent proposed Marina District residential and commercial project to link its marketing designs with the bridge. "I think photographers will come from all over to take pictures of the bridge," said Mr. Ludeman, who is on the bridge task force.

"To my knowledge there is nothing like it in the world," Mr. Ludeman said.

Once I-280 motorists start using the bridge to cross the Maumee River, the rapidly changing light shows will become a thing of the past. The cautious Ohio Department of Transportation is setting the light-system controllers to change gradually so mesmerized drivers won t be jolted into causing an accident.

People who live in the North Toledo and East Toledo neighborhoods that the bridge approaches cut through express pride in living so close to the new landmark and pleasure at being able to simply watch it.

Marjorie Troesken, 55, of 1804 North Erie St., says she s gone up to her neighbor s porch to watch the light show in the pylon, which towers over the house. "That light is beautiful," she said.

Jerry Davis, 35, of 1819 Erie St., who has lived his whole life in the north end, said the bridge is something the neighborhood can have pride in. "That s how I tell people where I live by the new I-280 bridge. It s nice to have something new," he said.

Residents say they ve lived with increased bridge noise since the construction began. The din of heavy traffic on the old I-280 lanes bounces off the underside of the new elevated structure, reverberating back to rattle houses in the neighborhood.

Residents are hopeful the noise will go away once the traffic is rerouted to the new, elevated span. Andrea Voogd, an Ohio Department of Transportation spokesman, said the new road surface was ground with the same kind of grooves used in airport runways to minimize noise. ODOT plans to do noise studies after the bridge opens to determine if noise-barrier walls are needed on the approach spans over North Toledo.

Across the river in East Toledo, Jeff and Becky Hartford, both 47, had a clear view of the bridge from their front yard on Esther Street, near Front Street, as images of the American flag splashed across the pylon s 13,824 light-emitting diodes. They have practical reasons to like the bridge: With the addition of a long exit lane and traffic light at Front, trucks will cease using their screeching "jake" brakes. But they take pride in the beautiful structure that will give added definition to East Toledo.

Merchants have begun to cash in on the city s new signature shape:

• Lamar Advertising built two tall steel billboard structures at gateway locations downtown in homage to the bridge design. Both billboards feature a pylon with cables strung to appear to hold up the lighted signs.

• A billboard on the Anthony Wayne Trail posted by a certain Chevy Olds dealer features the bridge shape and declares the long-awaited I-280 crossing a "Dunn deal."

• The Glass City Federal Credit Union based in Maumee incorporated the diagonal lines of the stay cables in its logo.

ODOT project manager Mike Gramza said he has received calls from entrepreneurs who plan to sell bridge-emblazoned T-shirts on Front and Consaul streets for the grand opening. He said no permission is needed to duplicate the image of the bridge, but he had to decline permission to sell their wares on the bridge itself.

An East Toledo hardware store owner was one of the first to make a Skyway souvenir.

Bob Kiss, owner of East Side Ace Hardware, 2208 Consaul St., specially ordered 600 pocket knives and money clips engraved with the silhouette of the bridge. He put them out for sale during the Christmas seasons for $12.99 and $15.99 each and was sold out by late May.

He said he has ordered another 100 of the items and hopes to have them in stock by the time the bridge opens to traffic.

Mr. Kiss has high hopes that the soaring and brilliantly lit structure will boost East Toledoans self-image and bring new investment to the East Side.

"It s going to be an attention-getter and an attention-getter is a magnet," he said.

Contact Tom Troy at: tomtroy@theblade.com or 419-724-6058.



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