Differing Messages Emerge on LED Streetlights

Public Works Newsflash

LED streetlight installation

Conflicting reports are shedding a new spotlight on light emitting diode (LED) streetlights, and Eugene civil engineers are paying attention. A recent guidance statement by the American Medical Association (AMA) argues blue-rich LED streetlights operate at a wavelength that suppresses melatonin during night and creates more nighttime glare than conventional lighting. However, the U.S. Department of Energy just released an article pointing out the issues are neither new nor restricted to LED technology.

The point of debate is the portion of the light in the “blue” spectrum, which the Department of Energy says can be roughly measured by correlated color temperature (CCT). Essentially, the lower the number the less “blue” light. However, at low CCTs, like the color of the conventional high pressure sodium bulbs, visibility can be distorted.

Public Works engineers just wrapped up a streetlight conversion project that led to the installation of nearly 5,000 LED fixtures, or about half of the City’s streetlights. As with any new information, they’re evaluating the statements from the AMA and the Department of Energy. Eugene engineers will also look into any new streetlight related research and monitor the reaction from cities across the country that also recently switched to LED lighting.

Part of the reasoning to replace the old bulbs came from a 2014 LED Streetlight Feasibility study. Engineers also looked at other cities that have recently moved to LED lights. They found people were more receptive to the neutral white lights that do contain some of the “blue” lighting.

Because LEDs are more efficient than the bulbs they’re replacing, the streetlight replacement project is expected to save the City $3.3 million in energy and maintenance costs over the next 20 years.

Request Street Lighting

The installation of new lights is initiated by individual citizen requests, by neighborhood petition or at the request of a public agency such as the police department. Requests are kept on file and the information is used to develop future street lighting projects. When funding for the projects becomes available, the allocation of funds is based on the priority established by the lighting studies.

Before new lights are installed, the city hangs a notice on the door of the adjacent properties affected by the proposed installation, outlining the location of the street light and its design. A phone number is included with the letter to give property owners an opportunity to tell us whether or not they favor the installation. If property owners object to the light, Public Works staff will discuss alternatives with them and describe possible alterations, such as shielding around the lights. If opposition continues and no serious safety issues are involved, the City may not install the street light. However, property owners usually recognize the added security benefits and support the street lights when requested changes are made. More info…

Report Malfunctioning Street Light

Most street lights within the city limits are maintained by the City of Eugene. Street lights are replaced on a schedule to maintain illumination to promote safety within the community. If you need to report a street light that has burned out or need to report damage to a street light pole, please make a street light maintenance request.