“Some cities are taking another look at LED lighting after AMA warning.”
That was the headline from a Washington Post article last Sunday, discussing the pushback against modern Light Emitting Diode streetlights in local communities. While the new streetlights are more energy efficient, last longer and save money compared to older sodium lights, some say they are too bright or cast to harsh of a light.
The American Medical Association warns that excessive blue light from certain LED streetlights could “disturb sleep rhythms and possibly increase the risk of serious health conditions,” according to the Post. Localities, however, say LED streetlights are not only more economical and more ecological, but are safer for drivers as well, helping to improve visibility on streets.
In Arlington, 85 percent of the more than 7,000 county-owned streetlights are now LED, according to Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Katie O’Brien. Arlington’s streetlights operate at 5500 Kelvin, she said, casting a bluer tint than the warmer 3000K color temperature recommended by the AMA. The blue tint has been compared to that cast by natural moonlight.
When LED streetlights were first rolled out in Arlington neighborhoods, there were loud complaints from some groups of residents. Since then, O’Brien said, many of the complaints about lighting technology — more than 50 formal complaints between 2013 and 2016 — have been addressed.
“The County has installed shields on county-owned LED streetlights to help better direct the light towards the sidewalk and street,” she said. “Most LED streetlights are also on a dimming schedule to decrease in brightness throughout the course of the night, dimmed as low as 25% of full brightness.”
Nonetheless, the county is studying the AMA report.
“Arlington County streetlights meet current federal standards,” O’Brien said. “The County is studying AMA’s report that LED lights may have negative health and environmental impacts. We are researching this issue and will consider this report, industry standards, and other factors in making a final decision around LED streetlight temperature as part of the County’s Street Light Management Plan that will be completed in 2017. Additionally, our staff will work closely with Arlington’s Public Health Division throughout this process.”
LED streetlights are 75 percent more energy efficient than older models. Arlington expects to save $1 million annually once all county streetlights are converted to LED technology.
What do you think about LED streetlights in Arlington?
Something knocked down a lamppost in Courthouse this afternoon.
The light toppled over in front of the CVS Pharmacy, near the Metro station. Luckily, no one was reported to be hurt by the falling mass of metal and glass.
The lamppost is located next to a bus stop. However, by the time an ARLnow.com reporter arrived on scene the lamppost had already been moved out of the middle of the sidewalk and none of the buses idling nearby had any sign of damage.
Anyone walking to or from the Virginia Square Metro station may see this curious sight just across Fairfax Drive from the station entrance.
The patio of an under construction apartment building is seemingly being built around a streetlight and traffic signal pole.
So what’s going on here, asks an ARLnow.com reader?
The photo shows the Latitude Apartments on the 3600 block of Fairfax Drive, first approved by the County Board in 2013 and expected to open later this summer, according to its website. County officials say the pole will eventually be moved at the developer’s expense.
“The pole is going to be relocated as part of the private developer’s site plan,” said Arlington Dept. of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter. “The developer’s contractor chose to move the pole later on during construction.”
A two-vehicle crash toppled over a streetlight and an attached traffic signal in Pentagon City today.
The wreck happened around noon, at the intersection of Army Navy Drive and S. Hayes Street, near the Pentagon City mall.
The exact circumstances of the crash were unclear, but one of the vehicles, an SUV, suffered seemingly minor front end damage while the second vehicle, a sedan with an Uber sticker in the window, suffered heavier damage. The damage to the sedan included a windshield apparently smashed by the light pole.
No injuries were reported. One travel lane on both Hayes and Army Navy, as well as part of the sidewalk, was blocked while crews worked to turn off power to the damaged pole and clean up the damage.
Fire Station 8 Task Force — At its Tuesday meeting, the Arlington County Board approved a charge for its new Fire Station No. 8 task force. The task force will review viable sites for the fire station, will seek a location that will improve fire and EMS response signs, and will seek to balance costs with service needs. [Arlington County]
More Metro Delays This Morning — Delays and overcrowded trains made for “another miserable day” on the Orange Line during this morning’s commute. Metro says it’s hoping to have full service restored on the Silver, Orange and Blue lines by the end of the year, following a catastrophic fire at an electrical substation in D.C. [WMATA, Twitter, Twitter]
Old Growth Forest in Arlington Recognized — A 24-acre portion of Glencarlyn Park, just south of Route 50, has been recognized by the Old Growth Forest Network. The park has trees that were likely saplings while the British burned the White House across the river during the War of 1812. [Arlington County]
GW Parkway Repaving Nearly Complete — Crews are starting to wrap up a repaving project on the GW Parkway that has prompted lane and ramp closures over the past few weeks. The formerly pockmarked section of the Parkway north of Reagan National Airport now has a smooth coating of asphalt. [WTOP]
Lee Highway Streetlight Upgrade Approved — The Arlington County Board last night approved a $2.2 million project to replace 1.5 miles of aging streetlights along Lee Highway with new, energy efficient LED streetlights. Some residents have previously complained of an “ugly” blue tint from the county’s LED streetlights. [Arlington County]
Ballston IHOP is Turning 50 — The IHOP restaurant in Ballston will turn 50 years old early next year. Reportedly, it was the first Virginia location for the chain. [InsideNova]
Arlington Hosting Metro Safety Seminar Tonight — Officials from Arlington County and WMATA will be participating in a Metro Safety and Preparedness Seminar tonight in Ballston. A panel of officials will discuss Arlington’s response to Metro incidents and emergency preparedness tips for Metro riders. [Arlington County]
Photo by Justin Funkhouser
County staff is recommending that the County Board approve a contract of over $2 million for replacing the aging lighting along Lee Highway during its meeting this coming Saturday.
“This existing infrastructure is failing and cannot be economically repaired and maintained to provide adequate and reliable lighting for all travelers in this corridor,”county staff wrote in their proposal.
If the contract is approved, American Lighting and Signalization will begin replacing the 70 existing streetlights with 270 county-standard LED streetlights in order “to enhance the safety for all roadway [and] sidewalk users,” according to county staff. The contract is for $1.87 million plus a $224,000 contingency.
“Over the years, the streetlights and associated power supply have deteriorated to the point that a full replacement [and] reconstruction is necessary. County staff found that the underground lines are in poor condition and unsafe to retrofit, as the wires are not protected in conduit,” county staff said.
The 70 streetlights were previously installed by the Virginia Department of Transportation. This time, the streetlights will be installed and paid for by Arlington.
Replacing the streetlights along Lee Highway is included in the Capital Improvement Plan (CIP) for 2015-2024. The original budget for replacement in the CIP was for $1.5 million, and the county plans to reallocate money from other areas, including a fund for county-wide streetlight work and the county’s transportation and traffic signals program.
“The total estimated cost of this project is $2,252,133 including design, utility locating, construction and County staff charges,” county staff wrote. “The project costs are $0.75 million over the adopted budget, because the original budget was not based on any field survey information or detailed design. The contingency includes a conservative 12 percent of the contract amount to cover underground conditions that utility surveys may have missed in the complicated environment of Lee Highway adjacent to I-66.”
The Rosslyn Business Improvement District is planning to reshape the sidewalks of Rosslyn next year.
Recently, BID employees have tagged newspaper boxes around the area for removal by tomorrow (Friday), but Rosslyn BID Urban Design Director Lucia deCordre said they will soon be replace by modern newsbox corrals in high-pedestrian areas, instead of the current semi-scattered layout around various parts of Rosslyn.
The corrals, new benches designed with slots placed to resemble the lights of Rosslyn’s skyline, parklets for outdoor dining and WiFi-enabled streetlights are among the elements the BID is planning on bringing to Rosslyn, starting in the spring. No active newsboxes will be removed, the BID says — the notices were placed on the boxes to have the vendors contact the BID about the plans for the corrals.
“We’re really looking to give a facelift to the sidewalks,” deCordre told ARLnow.com today. “We did an inventory of everything we have out there with streetscape, how to make them more pedestrian friendly and hang out a little more and support the retail.”
The BID is in the process of submitting plans to Arlington County to install prototypes of several of the designs at the corner of Wilson Blvd and N. Oak Street. If approved, the prototypes would be installed in the spring, and, if it’s successful, more elements will be introduced all over the BID’s footprint, which extends to N. Quinn Street.
“We’re going to take a full block and at least get one or two of the pieces so we can see how it all interacts together, how it works together,” said Mary-Claire Burick, the president of the Rosslyn BID. “It’s really all about the pedestrian experience. This really just takes us to that next step of that really modern, high-end contemporary feel.”
Some of the design elements will also have functions for those in the neighborhood. One of the mobile phone charging kiosks is already operational at the corner of N. Moore and 19th Streets, and Burick said it’s “very popular.” The streetlights would be enabled with WiFi, creating a network throughout the district.
Disclosure: Rosslyn BID is an ARLnow.com advertiser
Arlington County is touting its LED streetlight program.
In a new video from the county-run Arlington TV channel, the county says the program of replacing older streetlights with new LED streetlights is saving the Arlington $300,000 annually, thanks to the fact that the new lights are 75 percent more energy efficient. The LED lights will eventually save $1 million annually, after more are installed.
The video also indirectly touched on the controversial aspect of LED streetlights — resident complaints that the new lights are “offensively bright” and shine a blue light that’s “just plain ugly.”
“The lights shine a pure white light that is closer to natural sunlight, and may initially appear overly bright or harsh,” the narrator says. “This is normal. In fact, they’re actually less bright than the older bulbs. So it’s just new — and different.”
Peter’s Take is a weekly opinion column. The views and opinions expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of ARLnow.com.
Late last week, ARLnow reported on an issue that it described as second in controversy only to the streetcar: the installation of new LED streetlights in Arlington residential neighborhoods.
The controversy raises some complex technical issues relating to the brightness and color of the light emitted by alternative kinds of LED bulbs, and the standards governing how bright the light ought to be along entire streets in individual residential neighborhoods.
But, the overwhelming outcry against these lights from citizens in the neighborhoods in which they have been installed sends an unequivocal message similar to the message about the streetcar: it’s time for the County Board to suspend the installation of 5500K LED light bulbs and consider other options.
One of the options that must be open: replace the 5500K LED light bulbs already installed in residential neighborhoods with lower intensity, warmer LED light bulbs like the 3500K LED bulb.
A decision to replace the 5500K LED bulbs with a lower intensity, warmer LED bulb might be resisted for a variety of reasons, including the cost of doing so and the reluctance to admit that the decision to use the 5500K LED bulbs in residential neighborhoods was incorrect. Neither of these reasons is a valid justification for rejecting this option.
A private sector analogy is appropriate. Suppose you were a member of the Board of Directors of a condo or a town house complex, and you had joined with other Board members in selecting a particular type of light bulb and light pole placement for the external lighting on the private land owned by the condo or complex. After the lighting system actually was installed, you found there was an outcry that the lighting was way too bright and intrusive. What would you do?
You could simply take refuge in the content-free argument that “after many community meetings, this issue has already been decided”. You could try to placate the condo or home owners with a cheap “fix” that doesn’t really address the core problem. Or, you could acknowledge that based on what we know now, a new light bulb or lighting system is the best choice, and that’s what we are going to install.
Let’s keep an open mind to all options.
Peter Rousselot is a former member of the Central Committee of the Democratic Party of Virginia and former chair of the Arlington County Democratic Committee.
Aside from the Columbia Pike streetcar, one of the most controversial issues among Arlington residents may be that of LED streetlights. The light shone from the new streetlights is ugly and overly bright, say many in neighborhoods that have had them installed.
It’s enough of a hot-button issue to get dozens of residents from around Arlington to gather outside at 9:30 on a drizzly Tuesday night to discuss the finer points of Light Emitting Diode technology with County Board members and staff.
Arlington County began installing LED streetlights in the mid-2000s, with the intention of reducing energy and maintenance costs. The county says the new bulbs use about 75 percent less power than traditional sodium-vapor streetlights (currently saving $400,000 per year) and last about 8 times longer (3 years vs. up to 25 years).
Installation of the lights ramped up in 2010, with the goal of replacing nearly all county-owned streetlights by 2016. Though more efficient and, some may argue, more attractive than the reddish hue of traditional streetlights, the county has received a raft of complaints from those who live near the new streetlights in residential neighborhoods.
“It’s just offensively bright,” said Madison Manor resident Diane Beattie. “It really is like living in a parking lot.”
“In general we think energy savings is good, we’re not against that, but it’s the intensity and the color, which you can see in your living room,” said Arlington Village resident Mary Pat McNulty, who came out Tuesday night to learn more and to voice her concerns.
The bluish tint from the new streetlights is “just plain ugly,” said fellow Arlington Village resident Jan Kennemer, who added that exposure to blue wavelengths at night has been linked to health problems, including cancer and diabetes.
“It’s just ridiculous to have that light so close to your house,” Kennemer said. “There’s nothing you can do short of boarding up your windows to keep the light out.”
Arlington County officials say they’ve heard the complaints, and they’ve been working on solutions. Among them: dimmers which gradually dim the LED bulbs after sunset, “eyebrows” that shield some of the light output on the side adjacent to homes, and filters that help to diffuse the light and reduce glare.
“There are issues that we recognize and we have to make adjustments,” said County Board Chair Walter Tejada, who led the walking tour of streetlights in the Virginia Square area on Tuesday, along with fellow Board members Mary Hynes and Libby Garvey.
“It’s a change,” acknowledged Hynes. “The quality of the light is different, and we’ve been concerned about how much light it’s throwing onto houses. Staff has made a number of modifications… but we’re still hearing from people in certain places.”
Now that the county has completed most of the LED installations along the Metro corridors, crews are increasingly performing conversions in neighborhoods. The neighborhood lights are, by default, half as bright as those along the commercial corridors, where there have been fewer complaints. Still, Hynes says, it’s clear which neighborhood is getting the new streetlights by the complaints that start coming in.
“We know when a new neighborhood is going up,” she said. “I think this an issue of how we manage the transition from the commercial corridors into the neighborhoods.”
County Mulls Streetlight Changes — Arlington County is considering changing the type of LED streetlights it uses after complaints from residents. One possible change is using lights with a color temperature that more closely matches traditional sodium-vapor lighting. [Sun Gazette]
Cyclist Sets Up Stolen Bike Sting — A cyclist whose bikes were stolen from a Fairfax County parking garage managed to set up a sting operation in Arlington to try to catch the thief. The cyclist found one of the bikes for sale on Craigslist, arranged for the seller to come to an Arlington parking lot, and flagged down a police officer to lend assistance. After agreeing to a sale, listened to by police via a cell phone in the cyclist’s pocket, the seller was arrested. [Gripped Racing]
Transgender Fashion Show to Benefit Arlington Org — A transgender fashion show will be held this Saturday in Falls Church to benefit NovaSalud, a Courthouse-based HIV/AIDS nonprofit. The show’s Honorary Mistress of Ceremonies is Kristen Beck, a retired Navy SEAL who was formerly known as Chris Beck. [Falls Church News-Press]
This Day in Arlington History — On this day in Arlington history, 1937, it was reported that the County Board was debating whether movie theaters should be allowed to open on Sundays. Also, it was reported that a majority of the $176 million the IRS collected in Virginia in 1936 came from taxes on tobacco. [Sun Gazette]
Photo courtesy James Mahony
Street Lighting Complaints Continue — At its meeting on Saturday, the County Board addressed the complaints it continues to receive over the new LED streetlights being installed throughout the county. The Board has heard a number of types of complaints, including the lights casting a harsh glow and being too bright. County Manager Barbara Donnellan acknowledged the complaints but didn’t have any immediate solutions. She said the new lights save a lot of money. [Sun Gazette]
Red Truck Bakery Profile — Earlier this month, web magazine Slate — a division of the Washington Post Company — profiled Arlington resident Brian Noyes, the founder of Red Truck Bakery. Noyes restored a Cherrydale farmhouse and began his bakery business there while still working for Smithsonian magazine. He began in 2009 by selling goods out of the back of a 1954 Ford pickup truck and eventually found a brick and mortar location to work in Warrenton. Noyes, who has baked treats for the likes of President Obama, plans to open a new location in The Plains soon. [Slate]
NORAD Exercise Tonight — Arlington residents may hear unusual noises tonight as the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD) conducts training exercises. The training flights are designed to hone NORAD operations and to test its systems and personnel. The flights are scheduled to begin at 11:30 p.m. and run through 5:30 a.m. tomorrow (Wednesday). [U.S. Department of Defense]
Flickr pool photo by J Sonder
Through the county’s Neighborhood Conservation Program, the money will go toward four new projects and five ongoing projects. The program allows residents, through their neighborhood associations, to suggest improvements and work with the county to get the projects funded.
“Our Neighborhood Conservation program is true civic engagement – neighborhood improvements planned from the ground up,” said County Board Chair Mary Hynes. “Its success lies in the fact that it puts residents in charge of prioritizing which improvements their neighborhoods most need.”
The Neighborhood Conservation Advisory Committee (NCAC) meets monthly and makes project recommendations to the County Board twice a year. Of the 25 new projects examined, the NCAC chose the following four at its June meeting:
- Penrose, Butler Holmes Park — $522,400 for Phase II of park improvements
- Clarendon Courthouse, Rocky Run Park — $750,000 for Phase II of park improvements
- Madison Manor, N. Quintana Street — $126,018 for streetlights from 11th Road N. to N. Potomac Street
- Arlington Ridge, 21st Street S. — $572,474 for street improvements including sidewalk, curb and gutter from S. Kent Street to S. Joyce Street
Those projects, with a cost of nearly $2 million, will be funded from the proposed $11 million 2012 bond that will be on the ballot in November. Funding for the five existing projects will run nearly $750,000, and primarily comes from the previously approved 2010 Community Conservation Bond. If approved by voters, the bonds are scheduled to be sold before the end of fiscal year 2013.
Additional funding for the existing projects was requested due to increases in costs; the sprayground plan now includes a water recirculation system, and the cost of materials and installation of streetlights increased. Those projects, along with their original costs and additional funding requests, are as follows:
- Waycroft Woodlawn, N. Abingdon Street — Original estimate of $138,366 for streetlights, requires additional $170,506
- North Arlington/East Falls Church, 26th & 27th — Original estimate of $73,289 for streetlights, requires additional $100,565
- Madison Manor, 11th Road N. — Original estimate of $68,804 for streetlights, requires additional $103,309
- Columbia Heights, N. Barton Street — Original estimate of $356,525 for streetlights, requires additional $161,146
- Virginia Highlands Sprayground — Original estimate of $550,000, requires additional $212,000
It was noted in the county staff report that the cost for the lighting projects rose largely because they were held until the countywide conversion to LED lighting, which is currently underway. During the holding period, the price for materials and installation increased.
LED Street Lights Draw Complaints — New energy-efficient LED street lighting has been drawing complaints from Arlington residents. Residents have complained that the new lights are too bright and too white. That has prompted county officials to install dimmers on the lights, which has driven up the cost of the new lighting. The county is also exploring the use of lighting that is less harsh but also less energy efficient. [Sun Gazette]
‘Chiefs vs. Chefs’ Cooking Challenge Tonight — Some of Arlington most notable chefs will be battling some of Arlington’s top firehouse cooks in a cooking challenge for charity tonight. The chefs — David Guas of Bayou Bakery, Todd Pozinsky of Carlyle in Shirlington and Adam Barnett of Eventide — will go up against the tastiest creations from Arlington’s bravest. ‘Chiefs vs. Chefs’ is taking place from 6:30 to 9:30 p.m. tonight at the Key Bridge Marriott (1401 Lee Highway). Tickets to the event, which benefits the Arlington Food Assistance Center, start at $100. [AFAC]
Transportation Advice for APS — Writing in response to the recent controversy over changes to busing at Arlington Public Schools, Greater Greater Washington writer and Arlington resident Steve Offutt says APS should look to Arlington County government for guidance on how to create a “real, 21st-century transportation plan” that isn’t so focused on buses. [Greater Greater Washington]
New Jeweler Coming to Clarendon — Alexandria-based B&C Jewelers will be opening a second location in Clarendon. The store will be opening at 2729 Wilson Boulevard, in the storefront once occupied by the Sisters3 boutique. [Patch]
Polls Open for County Board Race — Polls are open until 7:00 p.m. for today’s Arlington County Board special election. The three candidates on the ballot are Libby Garvey (D), Mark Kelly (R) and Audrey Clement (G). See the list of polling places here.
Merrifield to Rival Arlington? — Merrifield, once best known for its drive-in movie theater, is transforming itself into a walkable urban community. Multiple apartment and townhouse developments are being built, and more are in the pipeline. Businesses like Harris Teeter, MOM’s Organic Market, Matchbox Pizza, Dolcezza gelato, Red Apron Butchery, Tayor Gourmet, and Cava Mezza are also on the way. Rep. Gerry Connolly says of the rapidly-developing Merrifield: “I think that it’s going to rival Arlington for a lot of the younger generation of workers and commuters.” [Washington Post]
Arlington’s Streetlight System, Explained — Of Arlington’s 17,000 streetlights, about 5,000 are owned by Arlington County while 12,000 are owned by Dominion Power. That dual ownership structure can sometimes cause long repair times, even after a resident reports that a traffic light has gone dark. [Greater Greater Washington]
Poverty on the Rise in Arlington — Arlington County is struggling to keep up with the needs of the growing segment of residents living under the poverty line. Currently, 1,200 people receive a county rent subsidy of just over $500, on average. But the current proposed budget for FY 2013 will leave 1,300 needy families without county assistance. Bridging that gap will likely require higher taxes, something County Board members are reportedly considering. [WAMU]