Government

Cedar Rapids electric bill could be slashed in half from new LED lighting in downtown

A street lamp outside the CRST Center, 201 First St. SE, in Cedar Rapids was the first installation of a new lighting program in the downtown area. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)
A street lamp outside the CRST Center, 201 First St. SE, in Cedar Rapids was the first installation of a new lighting program in the downtown area. (Jim Slosiarek/The Gazette)

CEDAR RAPIDS — New LED street lighting in downtown Cedar Rapids is projected to cut the city’s annual electric bill for that area in half.

Annual operating costs are anticipated to decrease from $180,500 to $91,000 as the number of street lamp posts are reduced from 879 down to 489, according to city information.

“We are reducing the number of poles and fixtures,” said John Witt, a Cedar Rapids traffic engineering manager. “It will be easier to maintain, and each light will cover more area.”

The new LED bulbs cast a more effective beam of light such that fewer are needed than the old high-pressure sodium bulbs, he said.

The estimated $5 million project is underway and is expected to take a few years to complete. It is intended to improve visibility and safety at night for pedestrians and motorists as well as replace worn, rusted green posts with shiny new black fixtures.

Some of the underground wiring and conduit was damaged in the 2008 flood and is being addressed.

The City Council originally had approved a $6.3 million budget, but the project has proved less expensive than expected.

The city is paying for construction and installation costs. Alliant Energy is executing the installation and will maintain the lights.

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Crews are working on two phases currently. These include Third Street SE from First Avenue East to Fourth Avenue SE, and Third Avenue SE from First Street SE to the Fourth Street SE railroad crossing.

The plan is to work year-round, with potential a slowdown around winter, Witt said.

Work began in fall 2018 and is expected to be complete in 2021. Some sections — including along First Street SE, First Street SW, Third Avenue SW, and the First, Second and Third Avenue bridges — already have been completed.

Work includes installation of the new posts and globes, and removing the old fixtures. Configurations of single, double and quad design of globes atop the posts are being used in different areas based on national lighting standards, said Emily Breen, public works department spokeswoman.

“It encompasses most of downtown,” Witt said. “The poles are meant to blend old and new architecture. They are black in color so they can work with something old like the Smulekoff’s Building or something new like CRST (Center).”

Jesse Thoeming, Downtown District executive director, said the new lights should be an improvement and arms extending from the posts would be used for hanging banners for events, seasonal decorations and not-for-profit causes.

“Once they are in, it will be nice to have that consistent look and feel,” Thoeming said. “That consistent lighting adds to the safety and vibrancy of the downtown. The feedback has been great. Folks really like them.”

Comments: (319) 398-8310; brian.morelli@thegazette.com

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