Pittsburgh discussing process to replace 40,000 street lights

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City of Pittsburgh leaders agreed today that some 40,000 street light bulbs should be replaced by more efficient fixtures and debated the process for choosing the right new technology.

Councilman William Peduto convened a special meeting of council to discuss the proposed transition to light-emitting diode, or LED, street lights, bringing in experts from the Clinton Climate Initiative and Carnegie Mellon University, as well as representatives of nine lighting companies.

"This is much more than changing light bulbs. This is about urban lighting for the 21st Century," said Mr. Peduto, at the beginning of an hours-long meeting that included discussion of features like sensor-and-timer-controlled lights that brighten and dim throughout the night, and multi-colored LED to decorate key buildings and bridges.

He wants CMU and the nonprofit Clinton Climate Initative to put together a process to analyze the relative effectiveness and economics of different lighting options and craft a competitive process leading to a three-year-long push to change all of the city's street lights.

He said he expects that change-over would cost $25 million. Cost savings from reduced electricity bills and lower maintenance costs could approach $1.4 million a year, based on estimates from various city officials.

City Sustainability Coordinator Lindsay Baxter said that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's administration has an internal committee looking at street lighting options. Next month, they plan to ask competing firms to submit information on options for a pilot transformation of some portion of the city's street light system to one of several available technologies, including LED.

The administration is working with the University of Pittsburgh's School of Engineering to craft a decision-making process, she said. "We just want to make sure that the process is based on research and is open and transparent," she said.

The city already has state funding to change over some of Grandview Avenue's 85 street lights.

The four council members who attended seemed enthusiastic about the transformative possibilities of new street lighting.

"I'd like us to be the city of lights," said Councilwoman Darlene Harris, arguing that effective, creative lighting could turn the city into "a work of art."

More details in tomorrow's Pittsburgh Post-Gazette.


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