Oklahoma City's Iconic Skydance Pedestrian Bridge

Skydance Bridge Oklahoma City
Walter Bibikow/The Image Bank/Getty Images

Oklahoma City has undergone many great changes in recent years, from MAPS 3 to the Devon Energy Center construction and the Core to Shore renovations around the Oklahoma River.

In conjunction with the southern relocation of a portion of I-40 near downtown, the city also constructed the Skydance Pedestrian Bridge, a visually stunning addition that allows foot traffic to freely cross this highly-congested area of the interstate highway.

The beautiful, rotating hues of the Skydance Bridge draw the eyes, even from those driving under for the hundredth time. For holidays, the city utilizes the lighting to represent the unique spirit of the day or season, and officials have also established a lighting policy for individual and group requests.

Understand first that special Skydance lighting is not for commercial purposes or individual recognition such as a birthday or a marriage. Instead, it should "promote the corporate interests and welfare of the City of Oklahoma City" specifically by recognizing a specific cause or commemorating a particular event. A bridge lighting application is available online, and the form must be received by the Public Works Department at least 30 days before the requested date.

Purpose and Construction

When the downtown portion of Interstate 40 was relocated just to the south of its current location, Oklahoma City officials were looking for a pedestrian connection between downtown and the blossoming Oklahoma River area.

Construction of the Skydance Pedestrian Bridge began in August 2011, just as the I-40 construction entered final stages. The estimated $6.6 million construction cost was funded by both city and federal money, about $3.5 million coming from the Oklahoma State Department of Transportation's federal funding and the rest from the city of Oklahoma City.

In addition to its obvious functional elements, the bridge—named the Skydance—has already become a huge and iconic modernistic sight for I-40 drivers and pedestrians alike. Tourists from across the state and country now travel to Oklahoma City just to take pictures from the top of this magnificent structure, and it's featured in many tourist information booklets and guides as a staple of the area.

Design and Look

After a design competition that included 16 firms, Oklahoma City chose the submission by Architect MKEC Engineering and Butzer Design Partnership led by Hans Butzer. Butzer is well-known as the designer of the Oklahoma City National Memorial.

The Skydance Pedestrian Bridge design is said to be inspired by the "sky dance" of the scissor-tailed flycatcher, Oklahoma's state bird. The 18-story structure is 30-feet wide and stretches 440-feet across the semi-depressed section of the 10-lane I-40 south of downtown. Wings rise above the bridge, reaching as high as 185 feet in the air, and a 66-inch high ornamental metal railing spans the length of the bridge.

The bridge is made of stainless steel panels that shimmer in the sun, and uplighting at night emits a skyward glow. The wings, made from a translucent material, appear to glow from within, creating a stunning visual display along with the functionality of allowing travelers to walk from downtown to the newly renovated Oklahoma River area.

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