If you think your neighborhood is looking better in the dark, and you can’t put your finger on why, it might be the new street lights.
All over Chicago, crews are replacing old-fashioned sodium vapor street lights with new, more energy efficient white metal halide lights. The primary reason: cost. The new lights will save the city $1.8 million a year on electricity.
The new fixtures also include a welcome side benefit. Instead of the orange glow of the sodium vapor lamp, metal halide lamps produce a more pleasing to the eye, bright white light.
"It’s all about public safety," said Chicago Department of Transportation Commissioner Gabe Klein.
Chicago is also replacing older traffic signals with new LED lights at more than 1,000 intersections citywide.
At the intersection of Western and Archer, both the traffic signals and the streetlight have been upgraded.
People who know the intersection well say it’s made a big difference.
"There used to be 10 TO 12 accidents a month here," said resident John Davis. "So far only two.
The city has spent $25 million dollars on the upgrades over the past year. $13 Million came from a federal grant. The rest came from local and state matching funds. About 2,300 streetlights have been replaced on 16 miles of Lake Shore Drive from 71st Street to Hollywood.
Another 3,000 lights line 24 miles of Western Avenue from Howard Street to 119th Street. An additional 11,000 lights will illuminate 300 miles of alleyways citywide.
Eventually, the goal is to replace all streetlights with the metal halide lamps and all traffic signals with LEDs. Those projects, however, will have to wait for additional funding.