Watch CBS News

City Says It's Saving $10 Million A Year With New LED Streetlights, But Structural Integrity Of Poles Is Not Being Checked

CHICAGO (CBS) -- The city is saving $10 million in electricity costs every year with LED streetlights.

A total of 200,000 LED streetlights have been installed across the city – replacing many of the high-pressure sodium vapor streetlights that long gave the city that familiar orange glow. The Chicago Smart Lighting Program began in September 2017, and is on track to hit the goal of 270,000 new lights by 2021.

Altogether, the Chicago Department of Transportation program is providing a clear and more reliable outdoor lighting system – with a cost reduction of $100 million over the first 10 years.

This year, new LED installations will take place in the community areas of Hegewisch, South Deering, West Lawn, West Elsdon, Archer Heights, McKinley Park, Bridgeport, Douglas, and Armour Square on the South, Southwest, and Southeast sides; and Avondale, Irving Park , Rogers Park, and Edgewater on the North and Northwest sides.

As part of the upgrades, the city also hopes to put in a citywide lighting management system that will alert the city when lights need service.

But while the city is replacing the bulbs, CBS 2 Investigator Dave Savini found they are not checking the structural integrity of the poles.

Savini has been investigating Chicago's poorly-maintained, rusted, and dangerous light poles for five years.

He found that despite having to climb and rewire all the old poles and install new LEDs, the city just left the clearly rusted bases alone. In one case, they even painted over the rust.

You may remember Maya Kirk. She was hit by a decorative metal lamppost in November in front of the Thompson Center, when the base snapped.

"The force was so strong it pushed me to the ground," Kirk told Savini.

She did not realize at first that it was the lamppost that struck her.

"I had no idea what hit me," Kirk said.

The city tells us they do have plans to replace about 100 decorative poles along LaSalle Street. But so far, they have refused to turn over maintenance records to us.

View CBS News In
CBS News App Open
Chrome Safari Continue
Be the first to know
Get browser notifications for breaking news, live events, and exclusive reporting.