“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
The stretch of Lee Highway from Rosslyn to Courthouse may be getting brighter if the County Board approves a streetlight replacement contract.
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.
Should Arlington turn night into day in its residential neighborhoods?
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