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City Picks Firm To Install New "Smart" LED Street Lights

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The city has chosen a Massachusetts-based company to spearhead a project to replace the city's outdated street lights with new LED "smart" lights.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel's office said it will ask the City Council to approve a contract with Ameresco Inc. to replace 270,000 street lights over the next four years. The mayor was scheduled to discuss the contract at a Tuesday afternoon press conference.

Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld said the project would start on the South Side and West Side, in neighborhoods with "heightened public safety concerns," as well as about a dozen major streets throughout the city.

Scheinfeld said the new LED street lights would last longer and be more reliable than the outdated high-pressure sodium fixtures currently in use.

"The lights are expected to be 50 to 75 percent more energy-efficient than our current fixtures. So we'll be cutting our electricity bill for street lighting in about half once this is fully deployed," she said.

A new lighting management system also will allow the new street lights to be dimmed or brightened remotely, as needed. City officials also would be able to monitor street lights remotely to repair or replace them faster when they go out.

The city began testing the new street lights in seven neighborhoods in December 2016, as part of the Chicago Smart Lighting Project.

Amundsen High School students who performed a study on light pollution found the blue-white glow of the new lights is more painful to the eyes than the amber-yellow glow of existing lamps, comparing the new lights to the high beams on a car. The students recommended Chicago use shields around the new street lamps to reduce glare and light pollution.

Scheinfeld said light shields will be part of the new street lamps.

"The lights we'll be installing will be shielded. So, no longer will light go up into the atmosphere, but it will be directed downwards on the sidewalk and the street, where it's needed most," she said.

The proposed contract with Ameresco Inc. will be introduced to the City Council on Wednesday.

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