Chicago’s streetlight modernization program reaches milestone with 76,000+ units deployed


Mayor Rahm Emanuel has released a progress report on the Chicago Smart Lighting Program (CSLP), which in its first year has seen more than 76,000 new LED smart streetlight fixtures installed across all of the city’s 50 wards.

The modernization program is being implemented by the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and will replace 270,000 of the city’s street, alley and viaduct lights with high-quality LED fixtures during its four-year timeframe. Chicago is also installing a citywide lighting management system for the new LED lights, which, when it becomes operational later this year, will alert CDOT when lights need servicing. By switching to energy efficient LED streetlights, the City expects to cut its electricity costs by more than half, yielding savings of approximately US$100m over 10 years. Utility savings from the first year of the program are estimated to be up to US$1m. In addition, the City expects to qualify for as much as US$35m in ComEd energy efficiency rebates for switching to more efficient streetlights from outdated High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) units.

Streetlight fixture replacements in the first year have been focused in the South and West Side neighborhoods, which have heightened public safety concerns, allowing those communities to quickly reap the benefits of higher quality, more reliable lighting. In addition, the new lights have been installed on more than a dozen major arterial routes and along the full length of Lake Shore Drive. The new lights, which are owned and operated by the City, consume 50-75% less electricity than HPS luminaires, generating significant electricity cost savings that will offset the cost of the modernization. LED fixtures also last two to three times longer than HPS lights. LED lights provide better night-time visibility, and the LED light fixtures selected by the City are ‘full cut-off’, meaning they are designed to project light downward where it is needed on streets and sidewalks, not into the night sky.

The program was procured by the Chicago Infrastructure Trust, which is dedicated to assisting the City in executing large-scale and complex public projects efficiently and economically, in coordination with CDOT and the Department of Innovation and Technology. The City contracted with a team led by Ameresco Inc., a national leader in the field of energy efficiency and renewable energy projects, to implement the program, with a priority to ensure that it relies on a diverse line-up of subcontractors and that residents will have access to the jobs created through the CSLP.

“After just one year, our Smart Lighting Project has reached every part of Chicago with new, energy efficient and reliable streetlights,” said Emanuel. “By modernizing our city’s streetlights, we are improving night-time visibility, creating new jobs, and saving taxpayers more than US$100m over the next decade. This project is a win-win; it will deliver one of the largest lighting modernization programs in the country, while addressing one of the top reasons residents call 311.”

CDOT commissioner, Rebekah Scheinfeld, added, “We are very pleased with the progress we have achieved in the first year. Our goal is to provide clearer, more reliable streetlights for every neighborhood and deliver significant savings for taxpayers.”

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Tom has edited Traffic Technology International (TTi) magazine and its Traffic Technology Today website since May 2014. During his time at the title, he has interviewed some of the top transportation chiefs at public agencies around the world as well as CEOs of leading multinationals and ground-breaking start-ups. Tom's earlier career saw him working on some the UK's leading consumer magazine titles. He has a law degree from the London School of Economics (LSE).