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City getting 1,200 energy-efficient streetlights — without amber glow

New shorter dual street lights are being installed JacksBlvd. contrast old ones they will replace. Monday  April 9 2012.

New shorter dual street lights are being installed on Jackson Blvd. in contrast to the old ones they will replace. Monday, April 9, 2012. | Brian Jackson~Sun-Times

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Updated: April 10, 2012 1:03AM

Parts of Chicago will no longer have that trademark amber glow after dark, thanks to 1,200 new energy-efficient streetlights being installed on more than 200 blocks of residential streets.

The new ceramic metal-halide fixtures are 18 feet high, compared to 22 feet for the old high-pressure sodium vapor streetlights. And instead of an amber-colored light, the new fixture will emit more of a white glow and use 33 percent less energy.

“It’s not necessarily brighter. But, these bulbs emit a white light that’s more visible. It’s easier to distinguish colors. And because of the increased visibility, you don’t need to use as much energy to produce the same amount of light,” said Peter Scales, a spokesman for the city’s Department of Transportation.

Chicago has 93,000 streetlights on arterial streets and 120,000 on residential streets. Already, 8,000 of the new white-light fixtures have been installed, evenly divided between residential streets and main streets.

Another 1,200 will be installed this year on more than 200 blocks of residential streets in 25 different wards at a cost of $66,000-per-block.

Most of the money will come from the $66-million-a-year aldermanic menu program that gives each of Chicago’s 50 alderman $1.32 million-a-year to spend on infrastructure improvements of their own choosing.

The menu program is bankrolled by general obligation bonds. Some of the new lights will be paid for by tax-increment-financing (TIF) funds.

“Critical infrastructure upgrades such as new street lighting help to secure and strengthen our neighborhoods while encouraging private investment and economic development in our communities,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a press release.

Last fall, outages hit more than 200 new energy-efficient streetlights installed on Lake Shore Drive, forcing the city to eat a heavy chunk of the repair bill.

But, Scales said the equipment used on residential streets is “entirely different” and there have been “virtually no issues” with outages.

“The lights on Lake Shore Drive have a different bulb that used a much higher wattage and different kind of ballast than the lights we’re installing on residential streets,” he said.

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