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Chicago Announces Plans to Switch to LED Streetlights

By Hannah Fullmer | Apr 15, 2016
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The city of Chicago announced The Chicago Smart Lighting Project on Sunday, April 17th.

Mayor Rahm Emanuel outlined the initiative’s goal to update 270,000 city lights in the next four years. Currently, there are approximately 348,500 outdoor lights across Chicago, including street, alley, viaduct, pathway and lakefront lights. The city plans to switch roughly 85 percent of these outdated high-pressure sodium (HPS) lights with light-emitting diode (LED) lights, calling the project "one of the largest municipal lighting modernization programs in the country."

The city believes making the switch to LEDs will improve the quality and reliability of its lighting infrastructure. They hope to reduce the number of outages as LED lights last three times as long as the current HPS lamps. In addition, the new lighting management system will provide real-time updates, improving the city’s response time to outages. Currently, the city relies on residents to report outages through the 311 system and receives more than 100 calls each day, according to the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) Commissioner, Rebekah Scheinfeld.

Finally, the city cited improved public safety as a project goal. They said that the LED lights will provide clearer, brighter, more-focused lighting, which will improve nighttime visibility and provide a greater sense of safety

Although working with the CDOT, the Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology (DoIT) and the Chicago Park District, the Smart Lighting Project is being spearheaded by the Chicago Infrastructure Trust (CIT).

The CIT was created in April 2012 by executive order from Emanuel and City Council resolution. According to a 2012 press release, “the CIT’s mission is to invest in infrastructure projects that benefit Chicago’s residents and grow the economy while protecting taxpayers. To accomplish this, the Trust secures innovative financing to attract capital from private investors.”

The control of public infrastructure is of high concern, as many Chicagoans still have former Mayor Daley’s 2008 parking meter deal in the back of their minds. In the deal, the city signed a 75-year contract, leasing its parking meters for $1.16 billion to a Morgan Stanley-led consortium called Chicago Parking Meters, LLC. The ink had barely dried when it was realized the meters were undervalued by $1 billion, and the city began to receive bills from Chicago Parking Meter for lost revenue.

Emanuel and the CIT announced the Smart Lighting project in September of 2015, and Emanuel wrote that the lights would continue to be maintained by the City of Chicago and the Chicago Park District during the project and after its completion.

The CIT launched its procurement process for Chicago Smart Lighting Project on Monday, April 16, issuing a Request for Qualifications and Proposals (RFQ/P).

Proposals are due no later than 2:00 p.m. CST on Friday, May 20, 2016

About The Author

FULLMER is the senior editor at ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR. Contact her at [email protected]

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