A plan for the city of Missoula to save energy and cut carbon emissions was aired Wednesday – at the same meeting Missoula City councilors heard a proposal to illuminate bridges.

“I think it’s pretty ironic that the meeting right before, we were talking about energy savings, and now, we’re talking about lighting a bridge up,” said Councilman Jon Wilkins, who also noted his mind remains open.

The Conservation Committee didn’t take action on the bridge lighting project, but members of the public raised objections to the possible intrusion of lights in the natural river setting, and councilors posed questions. Councilman Dave Strohmaier, who chairs the committee, said he doesn’t want the group to vote on the pending memorandum of understanding between the city and the Light Our Bridges Missoula group until schematics are available.

Last fall, a group of travelers who had seen lit bridges in Portugal announced they wanted to light bridges in Missoula, too. On Wednesday, Dan Lambros and Ellen Buchanan talked with councilors about the idea on behalf of Light Our Bridges Missoula.

Lambros and Buchanan presented a proposal to light up the Van Buren pedestrian bridge and the Madison Street pedestrian underbridge to beautify them and also increase safety. According to a rough estimate from Light Our Bridges, the total cost would be $200,000; the group already has raised $60,000.

“We DO NOT intend to ask for any public money to light these two bridges,” reads a line from the brochure in red letters. The draft agreement states the group “desires” to raise funds “without the use of public money.”

The Parks and Recreation Department would maintain the lighting once it’s installed, according to the agreement. Buchanan said the Madison bridge is currently lit, and she estimated new lights would actually save the city money and energy.


The proposal raised concerns among some councilors and members of the public. The draft contract mentions the Madison and Van Buren bridges, but the group has discussed illuminating other bridges in Missoula, too.

The agreement also makes note of colorful, patterned lights, and Wilkins said he isn’t sure he wants to see “dancing lights” unless maybe it’s Christmas. Strohmaier wants to be sure to hear from Montana Fish, Wildlife and Parks on impacts to aquatic life.

“Any lighting of the stream is certainly a concern for me in that regard,” Strohmaier said.

Councilman Jason Wiener, though, said he believes a good design can take care of concerns about wildlife and energy, and he didn’t run for council to take up the aesthetic question. He also praised Lambros and the group for having some imagination and taking action.

“I really appreciate that sort of initiative wherever I see it,” Wiener said.

The contract includes a possibility the lights would bring the city dollars, and this idea chafed some members of the public: “If the lighting design allows for colors and/or patterns to be customized, there will be the opportunity to generate revenue through such customization.”

The dollars for lights was among citizen activist Ross Best’s concerns. Best, a frequent pedestrian who often walks across the bridges, said he doesn’t want to watch a sunset from a bridge on the east end of town and have lights on the other bridges pollute his view. He wants lights to be functional and unobtrusive.

“I don’t want to see the commercialization that pervades our culture extending to the river,” said Best, who strongly objected to the proposal.

Others cautioned the city to look carefully at projected energy use from lighting all the bridges, especially because the city aims to curb greenhouse gas emissions.

At its meeting, the committee also heard the high points of the city’s Conservation and Climate Action Plan. The overall goal is for the city to become carbon neutral in 2025 with changes to its policies and practices, fleets and buildings, and renewable energy use and offsets.

The plan likely will be before the full council for a public hearing on Monday, Jan. 28.

Reporter Keila Szpaller can be reached at @KeilaSzpaller, 523-5262, keila.szpaller@missoulian.com or on MissoulaRedTape.com.

Reach Keila Szpaller at @keilaszpaller, at keila.szpaller@missoulian.com or at (406) 523-5262.

Reporter for the Missoulian

More from missoulian.com

(10) comments

sofaking tired of the GOP
sofaking tired of the GOP

Everyone that wants lights on the bridge sign up on a list. When the electric bill comes every month divide it up amongst them.


BAD IDEA! If this comes from the pockets of those who want it and never touches Taxpayer money... MAYBE....MAYBE.... i would be okay with it.... but it's going to end up being a waste of money in the long run. Funny though, how we worry so much about the homeless, and the poor, yet the city is willing to spend money on such frivolity.


We already have too much light pollution. This is a dumb idea. Just because some people saw some pretty lights somewhere else, we should not be subjected to their whim... Put lights on your house if want more light, not a public bridge.


A bunch of ritzy ritzies go to Portugal, see an historic bridge with some architectural significance in a major city and, over a bottle of plonk, think "we should light up the walkway on the Madison bridge like a Xmas tree." Just brilliant thinking there Watson. Is this really what this city has come down to? The Madison bridge walkway is already lit. It's lit subtly, quite safe, doesn't need the shabby Xmas tree treatment, and this is Missoula, Montana, not Portugal or Bali, and we have nothing remotely looking like the Sydney Harbour bridge or Westminster. Leave them alone. It's a fad that'll look outdated in a few years. The nice thing about Missoula compared to well-lit (light polluted) cities is you can still see the stars here. Is DisneyLand really what you all want?

Wiener said he "didn’t run for council to take up the aesthetic question." Ain't that the bleeding truth. Missoula's starting to look like '90s Sarajavo more and more every day. No clue about architecture, no clue about functionality, no clue about historic preservation. Just no bleeding clue. Of the Mayor's Seven Dwarfs he's the biggest chump of all.


No public money for this nonsense. Carbon neutral is pure bs, it is silly. The nation has gone insane in the last five years.


“We DO NOT intend to ask for any public money to light these two bridges,”. The funds won't come from public funding (no tax money) but will be maintained by the Parks and Rec. department (tax money)? Hmmm? Nice try.


“We DO NOT intend to ask for any public money to build this baseball stadium....uh....light these two bridges,”


Dan Lambros should pay for everythng out of his own deep pockets. I bet he won't pay for it.


If you want to light up a bridge. Why not Reserve street? It's darker than the bat cave out there.

Buzz Feedback
Buzz Feedback

Between Apostle's raise and lighting the bridges, Dan Lambros' name sure comes up a lot when it comes to pi$$ing away taxpayer money.

Welcome to the discussion.

Keep it Clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Don't Threaten. Threats of harming another person will not be tolerated.
Be Truthful. Don't knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be Nice. No racism, sexism or any sort of -ism that is degrading to another person.
Be Proactive. Use the 'Report' link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with Us. We'd love to hear eyewitness accounts, the history behind an article.