Why Chicago Street Lights Are About to Look Very Different

A West Side assembly line is literally casting Chicago in a new light.

Lyons View Manufacturing workers are building and testing heads for new street lights with LED lighting instead of the old-fashioned high-pressure sodium.

They will glow bright white instead of a dull orange.

Some of the first 17,000 are already up on the South and West Sides including here in Ald. Chris Taliaferro’s 29th Ward.

"It’s a great opportunity to light up the streets," Taliaferro said. "That means lighting up the street corners, so I think it will reduce some of the crime in the area as well."

For the city, the LED lights are also a great way to save money using 50-60 percent less electricity than the old lights.

And there is another advantage that could save on maintenance costs.

"Each of these lights has a node on it that will communicate back to us on a central network that will tell us if that light is on or off," said Dan Burke, chief engineer of Chicago's Department of Transportation.

The project, which will also replace ornamental lights like these, will cost $160 million over four years.

But the city sees it as an investment not only in its infrastructure but in its people.

More than half the lights will be built right here.

"We decided we wanted to have Chicago fixtures built by Chicagoans so we decided we were going to participate locally and hire from the community," Joshua Davis of Lyons View Manufacturing said.

"I am excited about it. I am excited to see young, African American men from the South and West Side making and manufacturing these lights and putting them up," Ald. Walter Burnett said. "It’s a win, win situation."

And Lyons View is also creating opportunities for ex-offenders, Mayor Rahm Emanuel said.

"Making sure our ex-offenders are not repeat offenders, you want to make sure an ex-offender remains and ex-offender a job," he said. "That’s what’s happening right here."

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