Calley, MDOT tout 13K Metro Detroit freeway LED lights

Leonard N. Fleming
The Detroit News

State officials on Monday touted a public-private program that has installed thousands of brighter LED lights on Metro Detroit freeways that they say save money, promote safety and reduce energy use.

The Michigan Department of Transportation and Lt. Gov. Brian Calley made the announcement in connection with DTE Energy Co. and its Energy Efficiency Business program. Officials said nearly 13,000 new LED lights have replaced older high pressure sodium, metal halide and mercury vapor fixtures. The new lights are expected to last longer, shine brighter and are easier to install.

The lights have been installed on freeways — including Interstates 94, 75, 96, 696 and 375 as well as M-59, the Lodge and Southfield freeways — will save $2 million annually in operating costs as part of a 15-year agreement between MDOT and agencies that operate freeway lighting around Metro Detroit.

“This is the first public-private partnership for freeway lights in the entire country,” said Kirk Steudle, the state’s transportation director, at a news conference at MDOT’s Detroit operations center. “I can tell you my colleagues around the country are very interested. We’ve had a lot of calls, and ‘how’d you do that, how’s it work.’ I know that freeway lighting partners have had some of those same kind of calls.”

The lighting replacement project began last April and wrapped up in November. Steudle said the effort also has helped Michigan State Police and drivers see the roadways and around them better.

State officials said only 70 percent of the freeway lights in Metro Detroit were operational in 2015 but will reach 100 percent by year’s end. There are roughly 2,000 lights to be replaced.

“You can see the difference,” said Steudle, mentioning the color is whiter and brighter on freeways that now feature LED lighting rather than an orange-tinge color of the old lights.

Referencing a recent satellite picture of the metro region, Calley said the difference in “the brightness of the city of Detroit” is palpable and “quite stunning.”

“On top of the higher operational success, we get brighter streets and much more efficient lighting,” said Calley after the briefing. “It was more than just changing out light bulbs. There were a lot of places where the wiring was gone, there are many poles themselves that were just too far gone to save and had to be replaced.”

Irene Dimitry, a DTE vice president in charge of business planning and development, said the energy efficiency is critical to making the highways brighter and saving money. She presented a $1 million rebate check to MDOT.

“More importantly, safer brighter lights (mean) safer freeways for Michigan citizens,” Dimitry said. “These benefits will go on for years to come.”

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