Project Overview

A short-duration project scheduled for the summer and fall of 2017 will overhaul the unreliable and energy-inefficient electricity and lighting components of the iconic “Trenton Makes the World Takes” sign attached to the downstream truss of the Lower Trenton Toll-Supported Bridge.

The project will address ongoing operational breakdowns and maintenance issues with the bridge’s neon sign components and electrical-supply system. These components were installed in 2005. They are nearing the end of their useful life. Under this project, the sign will be upgraded to a new color-changing and energy-efficient LED lighting system.

The project is taking place on the 100th anniversary of the year when the first illuminated city slogan sign went aglow on an iron-truss bridge that was the immediate predecessor to today’s steel-truss bridge at the Lower Trenton location.

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Project Information

Limited, minor travel restrictions are expected for this project. 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 project tasks. 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.

Construction activities are expected to begin in August and reach completion by late October.

The project’s contractor is to replace the lighting elements and electrical power supply system for the “Trenton Makes The World Takes” sign comprised of individual 9-foot-6-inch letter housings as follows:

  • Remove the sign’s old neon-tube lighting elements and the corresponding existing electrical power supply system.
  • Leave the existing letter housings in-place, cleaning and painting them after the old neon tubes are removed.
  • Furnish and install new color-changing LED strip lighting elements and electrical supply components.

The project’s construction contract was awarded on May 22, 2017 to Carr & Duff, Inc. of Huntingdon Valley, PA for a not-to-exceed amount of $647,000.

It’s believed that this will mark the sixth time the famous bridge signage has undergone replacement or significant change. The last sign renovation project occurred in 2004-05.

The renowned “Trenton Makes The World Takes” phrase dates to the early part of the 20th century. The original phrasing was “The World Takes, Trenton Makes,” the winning entry in a 1910 contest the Trenton Chamber of Commerce sponsored to devise a slogan touting the city’s 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 1,478 submitted slogans. Heath reportedly returned the $25 contest prize.

The slogan first appeared on the river in 1911, when the R.C. Maxwell Sign Co. constructed a sign of wooden letters adorned with sequins and attached the letters to the downstream side of the old iron bridge that previously crossed the Delaware River at the location

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.

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 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 more times over the years. In 1994, the chamber transferred ownership of the slogan signage to the Commission.

The 2017 sign lighting replacement is expected to have a longer service life while being more reliable in all of kinds of weather conditions and reducing energy consumption costs.

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).

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.