After campaigning for a brighter future, Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse plans to make good on a promise to fix the city’s street lights.
Dinning al fresco along Harrisburg’s famed Restaurant Row shows Downtown’s shining lights. Often times when people leave 2nd Street and venture away from the bright lights, the city’s shows its dark side – literally.
David DeKok, a longtime Shipoke resident, said the lights along the river on Front Street have been out for years.
"If lights are out, it pulls down the whole area," he said.
Especially in Allison Hill, many street lamps are broken or have been shot out to shield elements of crime and drug activity. Often times, law abiding citizens are left to walk in the dark in the evening hours.
In December, during one of his transition meetings, Papenfuse promised a plan to replace Harrisburg’s street lights by the end of his first year in office. On Wednesday, he vowed to keep good on his word.
The city plans to seek proposals from companies that will both provide new LED light fixtures and replace 4,269 cobra head-style lamps.
"It's going to be much easier to monitor, lights are going to be stable, they're going to be guaranteed for years," Papenfuse said.
The mayor estimates the project will cost upwards of $3 million. He said the infrastructure silo funds from the city’s court-approved recovery plan would cover the majority of the expenses.
Light engineer Kevin Baum said the city last Monday began replacing 65 missing light poles or lamp fixtures. Baum said workers are also checking the wiring in many poles to get ready for the LED conversion.
"These fixtures have to be in place so we can retrofit them for the LED,” said Baum.
Older bulbs have sucked money and energy for decades. Papenfuse pointed to Bethlehem, Pennsylvania, a city that had its lights converted to LEDs in October. He said West Side Hammer Electric was a company interested in the Harrisburg job. Papenfuse believed Bethlehem was a good example of what Harrisburg could receive.
"Go see what they've done in Bethlehem,” he said. “The entire hue of the city has changed; much brighter."
Northwestern University conducted research that showed a correlation between municipal lighting projects and the reduction of violent crimes. Many hope Harrisburg’s public safety and crime prevention will be an added benefit to a brighter city.
"Better street lighting means, hopefully, less street crime," DeKok said.
LEDs also lighten waste, according to Papenfuse. He said the city figures to save at least $250,000 annually in energy savings. He said the project would pay itself in five to seven years.
The 1,100 acorn-style lamps, mostly found in the historic neighborhoods on green poles, should be Phase Two of the mayor’s lighting plan. He said those fixtures should be replaced sometime next year.
In December, the Downtown Improvement District replaced nearly 40 of the old-style lamps around Strawberry Square and Market Square. However, as of Sunday evening, the Market Square lights were not on. DID Director Todd Vander Woude said he would address the issue.
Overall, Papenfuse said residents should expect a much brighter city by the time winter rolls around.