How does one even begin to describe New York’s Tappan Zee Bridge?

Let us try.

Ticking time bomb. Three-mile liability. Cantilevered death trap. Nightmare on the Hudson. The “scary of scaries.”

Spanning the Hudson River about 25 miles north of New York City where it connects Westchester and Rockland counties, the seven-lane Tappan Zee Bridge is the longest bridge in New York state. It’s also completely falling apart. Seriously — chunks of concrete are breaking off of the bridge and falling into the river below.

Despite its advanced state of deterioration, the Tappan Zee remains open to traffic, carrying an average of 138,000 vehicles per day via the New York State Thruway. Built quickly and on the cheap in the mid-1950s, the Tappan Zee was never meant to accommodate the load that it currently accommodates and was never meant to last as long as it has. It should have been replaced decades ago.

Within the next five years, a replacement bridge — price tag: $3.9 billion — that’s currently under construction will open just north of the narrow-laned, perpetually congested span. In this instance, the phrase “couldn’t come soon enough” is an understatement. And when it does open for traffic, the new Tappan Zee Bridge, or the New NY Bridge as the project is being called, will no longer prompt breath holding but breath stealing, thanks in part to a state-of-the-art LED-based smart lighting system on par with the flashiest of Las Vegas light shows.

Heck, with the tolls that the thruway is planning on charging to cross the new twin-span bridge, there better be a little razzle-dazzle involved.

Dutch electronics behemoth Philips, a company that’s previously ushered the Notre Dame Cathedral into the 21st century and revolutionized street lighting in Los Angeles, is heading up architectural and roadway lighting on the New NY Bridge, a bridge that the company has already heralded as the “most technologically advanced bridge in North America.”

Like LA’s new street lighting scheme, the “high-quality, low-maintenance” New NY Bridge will employ Philips’ cloud-based CityTouch connected lighting system. Combined with Philips ActiveTouch system, the bridge’s lighting can be remotely and seamlessly monitored, managed and maintained via a single dashboard. And in addition to being roughly 75 percent more efficient than traditional alternatives, the LEDs can be programmed to put on light shows — “dynamic or subtle, colorful effects” as Philips puts it — in observance of special occasions like holidays, sports victories and the like. In this regard, you could think of the New NY Bridge as being like the Empire State Building ... except that you can drive across it.

In total, the new bridge will be outfitted with 2,700 Philips Color Kinetics LED fixtures controlled through ActiveSite. About 500 Philips RoadView LED lamps monitored and maintained through the CityTouch system will illuminate the roadway itself.

“Not only is the new lighting system energy-efficient, it will help the Tappan Zee stand out in the night sky and further cement it as an iconic New York structure, while the roadway lighting will be an integral part of improving visibility and making it safer for drivers,” says John Trinity, a lead project engineer for the systems group at Tappan Zee Constructors, in a news release. “Moreover, the control system will eliminate the need to worry about maintaining server hardware or software systems, while still ensuring uptime because we can remotely login to see if there are any issues, quickly and efficiently dispatching crews to address any concerns.”

In addition to energy-efficient smart lighting, there’s plenty more to like about the New NY Bridge, which, by the way, is designed to last 100 years, not 50 like its predecessor. It will include a bike and pedestrian path, dedicated commuter bus lanes and breakdown/emergency lanes, another feature the current bridge lacks. Structurally, it will also be able to accommodate light rail or commute rail lines although these much-needed lines, for now, don’t exist.

Traffic relocation from the Tappan Zee to the new bridge is slated to being in late 2016 while demolition work is expected to commence toward the beginning of 2017. The new bridge is expected to reach full completion in April 2018. As for the proper, non-working name of the New NY Bridge, that’s still up in the air, although naming it in honor of the late folk singer, activist and champion of the Hudson River, Pete Seeger, has been proposed. A nice gesture to a monumental man but, unlike the new bridge's lighting system, not the smartest idea if you think about it

Related on MNN:

Matt Hickman ( @mattyhick ) writes about design, architecture and the intersection between the natural world and the built environment.

New Tappan Zee Bridge will be illuminated by smart LED systems
In addition to being safe, simple and more efficient, LEDs will transform the replacement bridge into a 'massive canvas.'