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Whiter, Crisper Streetlights Being Tested Before Going Up All Over Chicago

By Sam Cholke | December 12, 2016 5:12pm | Updated on December 13, 2016 9:45am
 The city's new LED lights (foreground) shine whiter than the yellow lights now around the city.
The city's new LED lights (foreground) shine whiter than the yellow lights now around the city.
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DNAinfo/Howard Ludwig

SOUTH SHORE — The city is testing out new high-efficiency streetlights in seven neighborhoods before rolling out the whiter, crisper LED lights across the city next year.

What will it mean to residents — including kids who have to come home when the streetlights come on?

LED, or light-emitting diodes, glow with a whiter hue than traditional lights around the city. The light is directed more onto the streets and less into homes. And they last three times as long, meaning fewer burned-out bulbs for years.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel was in South Shore to check out 15 of the new lights at 73rd Street and Bennett Avenue.

“One of the most common requests for an alderman and to 311 is for a light that’s out,” Emanuel said. “When lights go out, it affects public safety.”

The city plans to replace 270,000 streetlights over the next four years, and the pilot program launched Monday allows residents to weigh in on how bright the lights are and how well they light busy and quiet streets.

Seven neighborhoods are getting 15 new LEDs to illuminate one arterial street, a residential street and an alley.

Rebekah Scheinfeld, the city's transportation commissioner,  said the new lights will last up to 15 years, nearly three times longer than the old lights, which the city has used for nearly 50 years.

Scheinfeld said the new system will roll out next year after the City Council signs off on buying the new lights.  The lights will have a mechanism to alert crews they're about to burn out.

The Transportation Department gets about 100 calls a day about streetlights that are out. Scheinfeld said in April, when the project was first announced.

Aldermen Monday cheered the lighting update.

“This is definitely one of the most frequent calls to my office,” said 7th Ward Ald. Greg Mitchell. “I would love not to spend my menu money on lights, so I’m happy the administration is picking up the tab.”

Residents are being asked to give feedback to the Transportation Department by Dec. 31 on how the lights are working before the city moves forward with full installation.

The city’s electric bill in 2015 was $18.5 million, and the new streetlights are expected to cut the bill in half, said Mike Claffey, a spokesman for the Transportation Department.

The program is expected to replace about 85 percent of the streetlights in the city, with ornamental and specialty lights possibly being replaced at a later time.

The list of pilot sites includes:

• Touhy Avenue: Paulina Street to Ashland Avenue Paulina Street: Touhy Avenue to Chase Avenue. Alley from Ashland Avenue to Paulina Street between Touhy Avenue and Chase Avenue 

• N. Jersey Avenue: Bryn Mawr Avenue to Hollywood Avenue. Hollywood Avenue: N. Jersey Avenue to Spaulding Avenue. Alley from Bryn Mawr Avenue to Hollywood Avenue between N. Jersey Avenue and Spaulding Avenue 

• Hamlin Avenue: Augusta Boulevard to Iowa Street. Augusta Boulevard: Hamlin Avenue to Lawndale Avenue. Alley from August Boulevard to Iowa Street 
between Hamlin Avenue and Ridgeway Avenue 

• Wood Street: 46th Street to 47th Street. 46th Street: Wood Street to Wolcott Avenue. Alley running South from 46th Street between Wood Street and Honore Street 

• 73rd Street: Bennett Avenue to Euclid Avenue.
 Bennett Avenue: 73rd Street to 74th Street.
 Alley from 73rd Street to 74th Street between Bennett Avenue and Euclid Avenue 

• State Street: 107th Street to 108th Street.
 107th Street: State Street to Michigan Avenue.
 Alley from 107th Street to 108th Street between State Street and Lafayette Avenue 

• Longwood Drive: 115th Street to 116th Street. 115th Street: Longwood Drive to railroad tracks. Alley from 115th Street to 116th Street between Longwood Drive and Hale Avenue 

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