New LED Streetlights Line Detroit Freeway

The city is nearing the completion of a multi-million dollar project to convert its streetlights to more efficient LED lights.

by John Wisely, Detroit Free Press / January 24, 2017
Photo Courtesy of Shutterstock

(TNS) -- A $150-million effort to relight Metro Detroit freeways is almost done, with about 13,000 street lights converted to new, more energy efficient LED lights.

"They are about 70 percent more efficient," than the old sodium vapor lights, said Irene Dimitry, vice president of DTE Energy, who presented the Michigan Department of Transportation with a $1 million rebate today for upgrading the new technology.

The new lamps, which cast white light instead of the yellow light generated by the old ones, are expected to save the state about $2 million a year in energy bills. That savings will help pay for the new lights over the next 15 years.

The upgrades were done by a public-private partnership between the state and four private companies that have been replacing freeway lights in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties since early last year. Officials said the partnership is the first of its kind in the nation to address the need to invest in new street lighting.

The last 2,000 street lights to be converted will be completed this year, said Kirk Steudle, director of the Michigan Department of Transportation. Without such a funding system, it would have taken the state years to replace all the lamps, he said.

The state put in about $40 million for the project, using federal highway funds. The private companies came up with the rest and will recoup their investment over the life of the contract.

"For the same price, we get a more efficient, effective street lighting system throughout this entire area," said Lt. Gov. Brian Calley.

Steudle said when the project began, about 30% of of the lights in Metro Detroit were not working. As part of the project, the contractors had to replace about 400 light poles that were no longer good.

The lights cover state freeways including I-75, I-94, I-96, I-375, I-696, the Lodge, the Southfield Freeway and M-59.

The freeway lights in Metro Detroit make up about 90% of the lights the state controls statewide, but Calley said he hopes to see the public private partnership model can be used in other places.

"I hope it's not just a one off," Calley said. "As this model is being introduced, we think it was so successful the chances of it spreading to other places is very high. I would just say state government either. There are a lot of other types of entities that maintain street lighting systems that will probably be very interested in this."

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