LED Streetlights Coming to Columbia Pike

by ARLnow.com February 6, 2012 at 10:45 am 3,885 54 Comments

(Updated at 12:50 p.m.) Columbia Pike is set to get some new LED streetlights.

The Arlington County Board on Saturday is expected to grant approval to a $1.1 million contract for new streetlights and streetlight upgrades on the Pike between S. Frederick and S. Scott Streets. Most of the contract will be paid for with federal highway safety funds; about $140,000 will be paid by the county.

The contract will fund the construction of new LED streetlights and the upgrade of existing streetlights on three stretches of Columbia Pike: from S. Frederick Street to S. Buchanan Street, S. Wakefield Street to S. Glebe Road, and S. Glebe Road to S. Scott Street (including the “town center” area of Columbia Pike).

The LED-powered streetlights are necessary to improve pedestrian visibility and safety, county staff said. More information on the lights is available here.

Photo via Arlington County

  • Not so fast my friend…

    Please tell me they aren’t going to look like the picture…not exactly “town center” material.

  • Josh S

    Great news. Will save much money (and energy) in the long run.

    And they can zap vampires as a side bonus….

    • truth be told

      They are only 20 times more expensive to buy.

      • joe

        even if that were true, they also don’t require a full time employee with benefits to be constantly replacing bulbs. They could cost 50 times as much and still pay for themselves in no time compared to the old technology. It’s like suggesting that the Ambulance service should keep using horse drawn buggies because those new fangled automobiles are much more expensive. Amazing how the luddites have won over the right wing, you’d think they had more sense.

        • truth be told

          Comparing an automobile to a light is ridiculous.

          The only feasible way to upgrade lighting is to do so at the end of service life, and then upgrade to the most efficient cost-effective technology. Or, get a fed subsidy apparently. However, getting the subsidy doesn’t decrease the price. It only decreases the price to Arlington. If you are happy with your federal tax being given away in a wasteful manner, then good for you. I’d rather see it given to education instead. Or fix some of the damn potholes around here with it. I’d rather have a smooth ride than have the potholes lit by LED lighting.

          • Josh S

            It’s actually a very good analogy. You are familiar with analogies, aren’t you?

            I agree that it would be ideal to do such a thing at the end of the existing lamps’ service life or while replacing broken lamps or those hit by cars, which seem to happen freakishly often around here. But the money is available now. I don’t see how you can do the math and not come up with an answer that shows this saves money over time. It’s almost as if, *gasp* NOT spending the money would be wasteful. AHHHHH!! The HORROR!!!!

          • truth be told

            Josh, have you replaced all of your incandescent, fluorescent, and halogen bulbs in your house with LED yet? I’m guessing not.

          • Josh S

            And? I’m also driving a ten year old car, still use a clamshell style cell phone and haven’t taken a vacation in years. Your point?

            My point, in case it isn’t clear, is that family finances are not a good analogy to government finances.

    • CrystalMikey

      Good one!

    • Vladimir D., Transylvania


  • sitruc

    While this won’t be much of a problem with these lights, what solutions were made for LED traffic signal lights and LED vehicle lights in areas with snow? Traditionally, the lights were warm enough to melt snow, but LED signals don’t create much heat so the signals become covered with snow.

    • Rick

      They also become impossible to read with the slightest bit of wind (See Lee [email protected] Blvd)

      • Yep Uhuh

        How so?

  • Chris Slatt
  • John

    If the image represents the actual streetlight, it will look better than the clumsy looking ones on N George Mason. Btw, the light quality of the LEDs is still terrible.

    The county could at least cover the LEDs with a translucent panel. Other cities do this, and it would be a small improvement.

    • Lou

      The type I have seen the most, like along Fairfax Drive in Ballston, are pretty bad. They do need to shield the lamps, or rethink the whole lighting strategy. I have seen people have to shield their eyes to look down the street at night because looking at/past those things is too hard on the eyes.

      • Scott

        EXACTLY, LOU. They just installed one of those lights right next to our house today — and it is horrible. You can read anywhere in the house without turning on the lights in the middle of the night!

    • Clarendon

      Yes, I don’t really like the LED carlisle lights either. They are garishly harsh when you look at them directly but yet don’t seem to cast their light where you want to see. I assume by mixing LEDs of different wavelengths they could create a better color temp and maybe better reflectors or lenses are needed ?

    • JEB

      I agree that the light posts themselves are unartistic and are more appropriate for a Home Depot lot, but what concerns me much more is the quality of the light that LEDs cast. As others have said, the light is harsh and although bright to look at, throw a curiously dim, cold light. For example, the street lights in front of the block in Clarendon that fronts Boulevard Woodgrill, RiRa, etc. cast a dreadful light on the streetscape compared to the ones one block further toward the metro where it is much brighter, but warm and inviting. Anything that can be done to make lighting on our streets both efficient and beautiful is well worth the thought and effort.

  • O.0

    Why in goodness’ name is one of the wealthiest places in the world getting federal funds for a vanity project? If our leaders actually lived what they say, they would decline this federal handout and not suck dollars from poorer areas of the country. A complete and utter disgrace. What’s next federally funded solar panels for a library…oh wait…

    • SoMuchForSubtlety

      Great. So my fedral taxes should not be spent in my own County?

      • truth be told

        They just shouldn’t be wasted in your own County.

        • Sam

          I’m glad we have you around to determine what is wasteful and what isn’t.

          • truth be told

            You’re welcome.

    • Stitch_Jones


    • charlie

      because it is free money. we’d be stupid not to grab our share. grab grab.
      wait til the Feds get our ASK on the trolley. these lights will seem bargin.

      • truth be told

        One word on Federal green energy subsidies: Solyndra. It typifies the push toward something the market can not yet sustain by itself. Please, Mr. Government, let the market get there by itself. You are just screwing it up. It will get there, just be patient.

        • i’m down with that

          as soon as we remove all the subsidies for oil, gas, nuclear, and coal, which dwarf the incentives available for wind, solar, and renewables.

    • Josh S

      Not sure why you’d call it a vanity project. The new streetlights are more energy efficient and thus cost less to operate. Seems like fairly basic sound stewardship to me.

      • truth be told

        So you are ok with the $1.1 million cost?

        • chipotle_addict

          If it means we save $5 million in electricity over the next 20 years, why not?

          • truth be told

            How did you calculate $5 million?

        • Josh S

          Yeah, I don’t understand the question. Sometimes you spend money to save money. Seems pretty reasonable to me. What are the downsides here?

          • truth be told

            Can you produce the ROI calculations? I have trouble believing there is any financial benefit given the cost. That said, Arlington will benefit because fed money is paying most of the bill. But, it is still taxpayer money funding something that will not have the ROI.

          • SoMuchForSubtlety

            So let me make sure I undersatnd your argument. You are saying that Arlington should forego fedral funds to put in energy efficient lights (that are 80% more efficient) even though the operating costs for the lights comes out of the county budget paid for by our local taxes (i.e., my money and yours), and so we will continue to pay more money for less energy efficient lights from the county budget (again our local tax money) rather than being able to redirect those county funds that would then be saved by lower energy bills to other projects? Hmmm.

          • truth be told

            No. I’m saying, regardless of where the money comes from, the ROI isn’t there. It is essentially a subsidized movement. Good for Arlington, because it would not happen except for the subsidization.

            Less electricity? Yes. Lower operating cost? Yes. Worth the current capital cost? No. That’s all I’m saying.

        • SoMuchForSubtlety

          In one word or less. Yes.

    • Chris Slatt

      Vanity project?

      “VDOT’s data suggested that 44 percent of the pedestrian related collisions occurred during the hours of reduced visibility. The primary factor of pedestrian-vehicle collisions was found to be the lack of visibility as they cross the
      roadway. In order to improve the pedestrian visibility and safety at night, VDOT secured the federal HSIP grant funds for improving street lighting along Columbia Pike on areas between S. Frederick and S. Scott Streets.”

  • mr t

    the light looks like a spaceship with the blue backdrop

    • To be clear, that’s a file photo of an LED streetlight. It’s not intended to be a representation of what the streetlights on the Pike will look like.

      • We’ve now updated the article with a photo that shows the basic style of streetlight that will be used.

  • novasteve

    How much will it cost to replace these when the really competent drivers here crash into them or fliip their cars on them?

    • John K.

      They just won’t replace them. Someone took one out on Four Mile Run 4+ months ago in front of the Carlton and there’s been no replacement. Nice and dark for all the nearby condo-dwelling pedestrians and drivers, very Walkable Arlington.

    • chipotle_addict

      Wouldn’t that be the driver’s responsibility? I mean, you hit a parked car, you or your insurance has to pay to fix it. You hit a street light, the county has to replace it? Is that really how it works?

      Or are you just talking about hit and run situations where the person at fault is never found?

      • Josh S

        Basically, he’s talking about hypothetical situations that may or may not ever occur, if they do occur happen at a frequency that is likely not relevant, but since Steve-no go is pretty much opposed to anything, he figured he could ride this red herring for a bit and see what kind of obfuscation and confusion he could sow. Not having any real arguments against the plan.

        • esmith69


          I like the new moniker “Steve-no go”…how fitting!

        • novasteve

          Yes Josh, because nobody has ever hit a light pole or had a single car accident nor flipped a car here in Arlington before. I’m just merely being hypothetic, not a chance what I suggest could ever come true :rolleyes:

      • novasteve

        Not everyone has money. If it’s too much, they can file for bankruptcy and the light will not get replaced. So if it does, the taxpayers will be responsible. How much will it cost when our competent drivers start taking these lights out? Don’t pretend like this doesn’t happen.

        • Josh S

          backing away slowly………

  • John K.

    I’m just looking forward to WORKING streetlights between Frederick and Buchanan, particularly at the bridge.

  • Michael H.

    I think LED lighting is a good idea in principle. Lower energy cost saves money right away. But there are still questions about the product life of the LED bulbs. The usual claim is a product life of 25 years, but that may not be the case for all types of LEDs. Hopefully the County isn’t going cheap on these and getting LEDs that burn out in just a few years.

    If these lights do end up lasting close to 25 years, then the lower energy bills and reduced maintenance costs could make it a worthwhile investment.

  • Artie Fufkin

    They just put in these LED street lights on S 31st St by the water treatment plant.

  • Elmer

    Must be bright enough to help us avoid the potholes since the county took over the Pike from VDOT in Oct., 2010. Lights are cheaper than paving.

  • Jus’ Saying

    I’m all for this project to save electricity. We’ll use the saved juice to power that quarter of a billion dollar streetcar going up and down the Pike.
    Think of the savings.


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