The relighting of Detroit—a city that just three years ago was in chronic darkness—was completed on time and under budget, the city’s Public Lighting Authority (PLA) announced last month. In mid-December, PLA installed the last of 65,000 new LED streetlights, completing a massive relighting program that began in February 2014 after Mayor Mike Duggan and Detroit City Council appointed a new board to lead the project. In 2013, the PLA, under its previous leadership, had installed only 500 new lights, which were of the older high-pressure sodium style.
“For the first time in a generation, Detroiters can step outside at night anywhere in their city and have an expectation of a street lit to the national standard,” Mayor Duggan said. “They also can have the expectation that if a light goes out, it will be replaced within five days.”
Prior to the start of the LED project, about 40 percent of the city’s streetlights did not work, including entire neighborhoods in some cases. To bring relief to residents as quickly as possible, the Mayor worked with the PLA to reverse the original plan that called for lighting major thoroughfares first, in order to light neighborhoods first and complete them a year earlier. The new plan also called for installing brighter and more energy-efficient LED lights, rather than HPS.
The switch to LED also enabled PLA to eliminate the problem the old system experienced of copper theft by switching from copper to aluminum wiring. Aluminum has only a small fraction of the value of copper on the scrap market, making it unattractive to potential thieves. The new LED lights also do not require a copper coil at the base, as the old lights did, removing another target of thieves.
Detroit selected Cree to install 32,000 of the LED streetlights, which earned the company the Public Lighting Authority award.