The first day of February is also the first day of the West End's conversion to a "greener" way of illuminating its business district. Pittsburgh Mayor Luke Ravenstahl was lifted in a bucket truck to assist with the initial installation of Light Emitting Diode (LED) lights replacing older technology to improve visibility and safety as well as the city's wallet.
The effort is included in the streetlight conversion project, launched in 2009 by Ravenstahl. Pittsburgh City Councilman Bill Peduto has spearheaded the city's efforts in greener infrastructure with the creation of the Pittsburgh LED Streetlight Project.
The conversion project is estimated to cost $2.9 million but Ravenstahl said it will save in energy costs in the future. Officials anticipate saving $110,000 taxpayer dollars by changing more than 3,500 streetlights in each of Pittsburgh's business districts.
Ravenstahl noted that in addition to energy cost savings, the change also makes the business districts friendlier to visit because the brighter lighting could possibly deter crime. He also noted that the communities that already have the LED lighting, such as Lawrenceville, are responding well to the conversion.
"We're not going to add any new poles or any sort of installation or new additions," he said. "This is simply replacing the old lights and technology that existed in these business districts."
Ravenstahl said the project encompasses 32 business districts and should be completed in about another month.
James Sloss, Energy and Utilities Manager for the City of Pittsburgh, is heading the conversion, and said the ongoing project is about 70 percent complete. The city is preparing to begin the last two phases of the conversion, which will include larger roadways in the city like Fort Duquesne and Baum Boulevards. He adds that even though the project is not required by any federal standard at this time, the conversion could open the city to new alternative funding opportunities.
"It's not just the energy reduction, because right now in western Pennsylvania utilities are very cheap," Sloss said. "So the cost is negligible at this point, however, the greenhouse gas emissions you would normally have from such usage is being reduced as well. So environmentally, these are much better fixtures."
The fixtures are purchased from King Luminaire based near Youngstown, Ohio, and Ravenstahl notes that they picked an out-of-state provider based on various factors including the lowest bid.