Mayor Emanuel Announces City Council Passage of Streetlight Modernization Project to City Council

City Council today passed an ordinance backed by Mayor Rahm Emanuel, the Chicago Department of Transportation (CDOT) and the Chicago Infrastructure Trust (CIT) that will modernize Chicago’s streetlight system, replacing 85 percent of Chicago’s public lights with reliable and high-quality fixtures. Installation of the new streetlight fixtures will begin this summer in south and west side communities. In total, the Chicago Smart Lighting Project will replace 270,000 of Chicago’s light fixtures and add a management system that will give the city a state-of-the-art smart lighting grid.

“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,” Mayor Emanuel said. “Under this proposed project we will be delivering modern, reliable and high-quality lighting that will improve quality of life in every Chicago neighborhood.”

The project is expected to be completed in four years and cost up to $160 million. The selected vendor team is led by Ameresco Inc., a national leader in the field of energy efficiency projects.

Installations are projected to begin this summer. For the first year, streetlight fixture replacement will be focused in those neighborhoods with heightened public safety concerns, primarily on the west and south sides. This allows communities in the greatest need to most quickly reap the benefits of clearer and more reliable lighting. In addition, to ensure neighborhoods throughout the City benefit from new lighting in the first year, new LED lights will be installed along approximately a dozen main arterial streets across the City.

These new lights, which will be owned and operated by the City, will consume 50-75 percent less electricity than existing high pressure sodium (HPS) lights, generating significant electricity cost savings that will be utilized to pay for the modernization.

The project has three primary components: 

  • Replacement of approximately 270,000 existing street, alley and viaduct light fixtures with modern, energy efficient LED lights. 
  • Installation of a state-of-the-art lighting management system that will enable remote monitoring and control of the City’s outdoor lighting. The system will greatly improve the city’s responsiveness to service requests by providing real-time updates when outages occur. It will also allow lighting levels to be controlled remotely.
  • Targeted stabilization and repair of existing light poles and wiring on an as-needed basis and based on available funding in order to improve the reliability of existing infrastructure.

The Smart Lighting Project procurement has been led by the CIT, in close coordination with CDOT, the Chicago Department of Innovation and Technology and the Chicago Park District.

“This project represents a significant investment in Chicago’s future and specifically our neighborhoods,” Chicago Treasurer and CIT Chair Kurt Summers said. “By modernizing our infrastructure, the city will save money over the long term through lower energy costs and vastly improve the lighting on our streets and alleys. This project shows the strength of the CIT and we look forward to beginning other new initiatives that will invest in Chicago in the years to come.”

“CDOT looks forward to working with the vendor team to carry out this historic streetlight retrofit project,” CDOT Commissioner Rebekah Scheinfeld said. “The longer life of LED lights will greatly improve the reliability of our lighting system. The higher quality light provided by LED technology will improve visibility and safety in Chicago’s neighborhoods. And the new lighting management system will also provide tremendous benefits by greatly improving the efficiency of city operations, allowing us to respond proactively when outages occur and to restore service more quickly.”

“Reliable streetlights are necessary for neighborhood quality of life,” said Alderman Emma Mitts. “This project is going to make a big difference for drivers, riders, pedestrians and residents across Chicago and I look forward to the work getting started!”

The City made it a priority to ensure that the vendor relies on a diverse lineup of subcontractors and that City residents will have access to the jobs created through the Smart Lighting Project.

More than half of the light fixtures in at least the first year will be assembled at a plant in the City of Chicago, and Ameresco has committed to using City residents to perform at least 50 percent of the work on the project. Additionally, the project is striving to achieve 27 percent Minority Business Enterprise participation and 7 percent Women’s Business Enterprise participation. The first phase of the project requires a city-wide survey of existing streetlight infrastructure, and the contractor has committed that at least half of the employees for this phase will be graduates of CPS career and technical programs, City Colleges of Chicago construction technology training programs and/or exoffender apprenticeship programs. A key subcontractor, John Burns Construction, has a strong proven record on local hiring.

Following a neighborhood demonstration project that installed sample LED lights in seven neighborhoods, the City issued specifications for the new lights that feature a “shielded” design to ensure the light is focused downward toward the street and sidewalk where it is needed. In addition, all LED fixtures will be limited to a maximum correlated color temperature (CCT) of 3000K or less, and most will contain dimmable power sources that provide the ability to remotely adjust light levels where needed.

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