TRENTON, NJ – The iconic, illuminated “Trenton Makes The World Takes” sign on the Lower Trenton Toll-Supported Bridge will be upgraded to a new color-changing and energy-efficient LED lighting system under a contract approved today by the Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission.
The work will take place in 2017, which happens to be the 100th anniversary of the first year that the manufacturing-age slogan first appeared as an illuminated display along the river. On August 8, 1917, the phrase “Trenton Makes The World Takes” went aglow along the downstream side of the old iron bridge that was the immediate predecessor to the current, steel Lower Trenton span. At that time, the iron bridge was a tolled crossing owned and operated by the Pennsylvania Railroad. News articles from the time heralded the sign as the “world’s largest municipal ad” and the “largest slogan sign in the world.”
The upcoming lighting upgrade project will involve removal of the bridge sign’s current unreliable and energy-inefficient red neon tubes and its corresponding electrical power supply system. These components were installed in 2005 and are nearing the end of their useful life. The sign’s 25 existing letter housings – each 9 feet, 6 inches high – will remain in place, but will be cleaned and re-painted as part of the project.
The sign will then be outfitted with a new system of color-changing LED strip lighting elements and corresponding electrical supply components.
“We expect this technological upgrade will have an exponentially longer service life while being more reliable in all of kinds of weather conditions and reducing energy consumption costs in the process,” said Joe Resta, the Commission’s executive director.
The new color‐changing LED neon replacement lights will maintain the existing appearance of the sign, yet allow for flexibility to change the color scheme on individual letters for holidays and special occasions. DRJTBC impact studies estimate the upgraded lighting will be 20 percent more efficient (5,520 watts currently vs. 4,335 watts for new lights) with a 60 percent longer system life (30,000 hours currently vs. 50,000 hours for new lights).
Resta said an added dividend to the new lights will be the ability to change the color of the sign or of various letters for special events and causes, much like is done at notable bridges elsewhere in the nation.
“There could, for example, be alternating red, white and blue letter for the Fourth of July. Or green for St. Patrick’s Day. Or pink for Breast Cancer Awareness Month,” said Resta.
Construction activities are expected to begin in mid-July and be completed in the fall. The sign will be unlit during the installation of the new lighting system. Motorists driving over the bridge from Pennsylvania to New Jersey may encounter lane shifts and short-duration traffic stoppages to allow the contractor to place equipment and carry out some facets of the work. Pedestrian access on the bridge’s upstream sidewalk is not expected to be impacted. More information will be provided in advance of any travel restrictions once they are scheduled.
The project’s construction contract was awarded to Carr & Duff, Inc. of Huntingdon Valley, PA for a not-to-exceed amount of $647,000. The Commission approved the contract at its monthly meeting today in New Hope, PA.
It’s believed that this will mark the sixth time the famous bridge signage has undergone replacement or significant change.
The renowned phrase – it originally was “The World Takes, Trenton Makes” — dates back to 1910 when the Trenton Chamber of Commerce sponsored a contest to coin a slogan for the city, touting its many manufacturing attributes. S. Roy Heath, a local lumberyard owner who went on to become a state senator, penned the phrase.
There were 289 persons in the contest with 1478 submitted slogans. Heath reportedly returned the $25 contest prize.
In 1911, the R.C. Maxwell Sign Co. installed Heath’s slogan on the old iron bridge as wooden letters adorned with sequins.
In 1917, a mayoral committee succeeded in raising funds to have R.C. Maxwell replace the wooden sign with illuminated letters reordered to read “Trenton Makes – The World Takes” with an arrow pointing to Trenton.
The old iron bridge was replaced by the current steel truss bridge in 1928. The illuminated slogan, however, did not return to the bridge until 1935. The signage subsequently was replaced several times. The chamber transferred ownership of the slogan signage to the Commission in 1994.
About the Commission
The Delaware River Joint Toll Bridge Commission was formed by the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and the State of New Jersey in 1934. It operates seven toll bridges and 13 toll-supported bridges, two of which are pedestrian-only spans. The Commission is a self-supporting public-service agency that receives neither federal nor state tax dollars to finance its projects or operations. Funding for the operations, maintenance and upkeep of its bridges and related transportation facilities is solely derived from revenues collected at its toll bridges. The Commission’s jurisdiction extends along the Delaware River from the Philadelphia-Bucks County line north to the New Jersey/New York border. The bridges carried more than 144.5 million cars and trucks in 2016. For more information about the Commission and its various initiatives to deliver safer and more convenient bridge travel for its customers, please see: www.drjtbc.org.