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Sign Of The Times: Lights Going Dark On Major Area Highways

NEW YORK (CBS 2) -- A sign of the times is turning into a potentially deadly danger for commuters.

In a dark manifestation of the new normal, lights on major highways are blinking out – and staying that way – and the American Automobile Association says New Yorkers may have to get used to it, reports CBS 2's Lou Young.

If you think Winter nights might be a little darker lately, it might not be your imagination. On the Cross County Parkway, it's difficult to count the number of unlit street lamps.

Many fear the darkened lights may be a sign of these austere times.

"I notice it on just about every highway," driver Paul Cardinas said.

It's not difficult to find dark pavement running between blackened bulbs, whether inside the city limits or out in the suburbs. Often an entire series of lights are out, including a 1.5-mile run between Yonkers and Mount Vernon.

"A lot of major highways in our area are completely in the dark," Robert Sinclair, of AAA, said.

The Cross Bronx Expressway is one of those highways.

"I haven't been able to figure out what's going on," driver Robbin Moore said.

The Cross Bronx, oddly, may be a bright spot in a dimming picture. Repair crews are promising a $50 million upgrade that should have the lights on by June. Other stretches of highway, though, are coming up against shrinking state and municipal budgets.

"We think that, perhaps with the bad economy and lots of budget cuts happening, that this might be a problem that could linger," Sinclair said.

Fixing the problem isn't always as simple as changing a bulb, either – some of the streetlights require expensive re-wiring.

Drivers say they've gotten used to adjusting to an unevenly lit highway landscape.

"You're driving and you can't see. One minute you have lights, the next minute it's dark," Darren Jeffries said.

"You've got to stay more focused on the road, you've got to pay attention," Jason Thau said.

No one admits to intentionally deferring maintenance, but drivers say the evidence is right there in front of you. The State Department of Transportation told CBS 2's Lou Young that they've applied for money to re-light sections of the Cross County Parkway – for $1.5 million – but they're still waiting on Albany.

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