Some C-U streets to remain in the dark

Some C-U streets to remain in the dark

CHAMPAIGN — Anyone who lives on Healey Street east of Prospect Avenue knows what happens when the sun goes down.

"It gets very dark at night," said resident Sam Frost.

That's not necessarily a problem, though. A lot of people on the street have porch lights, Frost said. Her neighbor from down the street, Maureen Koster, has a well-lit alley behind her house.

Koster doesn't mind the dark street in front.

"Sometimes I like it," Koster said.

It's one of a number of neighborhoods in Champaign-Urbana without lit streets, and if you live in one of them, you had better get used to it. The cities have no plans to install new lights anytime soon.

Champaign's most-trafficked streets are all lighted — the Prospects, Mattises and Greens of town are all lined with lamps owned and maintained by Ameren Illinois. Get deeper into neighborhoods, and you'll be able to find some lights in some of the older parts of town — mostly north of University Avenue or east of Neil Street — that are owned and maintained by the city.

But big swaths of neighborhoods are left in the dark: Healey is one of them, and south of it toward Hessel Park. Off the main roads, streetlights are scarce as you go farther southwest.

For some neighborhoods, that can become a safety issue. Criminals prefer to commit crimes in the dark, and years ago, residents of the Garden Hills neighborhood in the northwest part of the city urged officials to add streetlights to their area.

That happened, but it came at a price. In 2007, the city council approved a $210,000 contract to add 26 streetlights to the Garden Hills neighborhood.

Outside of that anomaly, city officials say they have no plans to install new streetlights anywhere in town.

The same is true for Urbana. Last year, residents in the Lierman Avenue neighborhood pointed out to city officials a few dark intersections. They said it was a safety issue for drivers, pedestrians and bicyclists.

"That neighborhood got together and we came up with a plan and got streetlights installed," said public works operations manager John Collins.

Collins said the city doesn't often get requests for new streetlights, but it can be done through special tax assessments when they do. That means if residents want a streetlight, they'll probably be the ones paying for it directly.

Otherwise, adding streetlights to new areas is largely up to the developer, who is often responsible for installing infrastructure like streets, sewers and sidewalks in new subdivisions before turning it over to the city.

Beyond that, there's nothing in the works as far as revisiting older parts of town.

"Not at this time," Collins said. "We're looking at possibly a few intersections in particular neighborhoods, but no big, widespread projects."

The new street-lighting trend, however, is LEDs. The modern lights use about a third of the energy of traditional streetlights and emit a more bluish hue as opposed to the yellowish hue of the old lights.

LED streetlights are most prominent in Champaign on University just west of the viaduct and on North Market Street just north of the interstate. Switching out those lights is usually included as part of a large rehabilitation project, not as a standalone replacement.

Urbana's got plans, too.

"Oh, we're doing quite a bit of that," Collins said. "Almost everything new that we're installing will be LED."

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Lostinspace wrote on August 04, 2014 at 9:08 am

8,000 bucks for a light pole.  Maybe they should have considered something other than platinum.

pattsi wrote on August 04, 2014 at 12:08 pm

A small piece of information as you digest the article. CUUATS (Champaign Urbana Urbanized Area Transportation Study) has just completed Sustainable Choices 2040. The next phase is to create a walkability report card for the communities.An important variable to create a walkable community is lighting, mainly for sidewalks if such exist and if not the street. You can access the many reports produced by CUUATS at  http://www.ccrpc.org/transportation/

C in Champaign wrote on August 04, 2014 at 1:08 pm

$8,000 per pole is not too bad when you stop to think about all the underground wire that has to be pulled, a substantial concrete base for each light, plus the cost of assmbling and installing the pole. When you see prices for constuction projects and road work, labor makes up a huge part of the total, and in some cases the vast majority of cost.

Most of the subdivisions that have been developed in the last 30-40 years or so have a requirement in the covenants and restrictions of their respective homeowners associtations that requires property owners to install and maintain in working condition a post lamp in the front yard of their property, generally within a certain distance of the street or sidewalk. Those that have sidewalks that povide access to common areas adjacent to back and side yards generally require light posts in those areas as well. These neighborhoods are usually pretty well lit. Especially in those subdivisions that have more reasonably sized lots which result in more lights at shorter intervals.