City council OKs new code for streetlights

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Pittsburgh's prospects for a modern system of streetlights got a little brighter Wednesday, when city council gave preliminary approval to a new lighting code.

The code sets technical requirements for illumination, so streets are neither too bright nor too dark. The code also has guidelines for ensuring that all neighborhoods receive a fair share of streetlight investment in coming years.

"It's a long time coming," Councilman Bill Peduto said of the code.

The next step will be using the code as a guide for replacing about 3,000 streetlights in the city's 50 or so business districts. The incandescent lights will be replaced with energy-efficient LED lights -- work to be financed with an $800,000 state grant that Mayor Luke Ravenstahl's office announced last year.

In the next two to four weeks, the city will solicit proposals from companies interested in performing the work, said Ben Carlise, operations manager for the public works department.

"We want the project to be completed by February 2012," he said.

Mr. Ravenstahl previously estimated that the switch to LED lights in the business districts would save the city about $110,000 annually in energy and maintenance costs.

In all, the city has about 40,000 streetlights, and it hopes to replace all of them over several years. That work will require additional grants and give the city a cutting-edge lighting system, Mr. Peduto said.

Other cities are undertaking similar conversions to LED systems, a change Mr. Peduto called as significant as the conversion from gas-powered to electrified lights in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

Pittsburgh spends about $1.1 million annually to power the 40,000 lights. The installation of LED lights should save at least $600,000 a year, said Jim Sloss, the city's energy and utilities manager.

To prepare for conversion in the business districts, the city has worked with Carnegie Mellon University to develop a standard fixture. It also tested dozens of lights on the South Side and dispatched an intern to the business districts to document the location and other details on every light.

"We have this really sweet-looking map," Mr. Sloss said.

Joe Smydo: or 412-263-1548.


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