South Bend hopes to reduce neighborhood dark spots with solar streetlights

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SOUTH BEND ― Homeowners have until August 15 to take advantage of a streetlight program, which aims to bring more light to neighborhoods across the city.

The program is part of the Light Up South Bend initiative that was launched in 2015. It provides subsidized solar-powered streetlights to homeowners ― in addition to more and better streetlights ― as part of an effort to eliminate the dark spots of the city.

“We know lighting in our neighborhoods makes residents feel safer, and some studies have shown it creates safer neighborhoods,” Mayor James Mueller said via email. “The streetlight program is another example of the city’s efforts to create affordable and sustainable lighting upgrades for more vibrant neighborhoods.

Safety is what motivated Mary Adamo to take advantage of the streetlight program.

Its neighborhood can be a bit dark in places, as it has mature trees that can block streetlights, and it borders Coquillard Park on the northeast side of town.

After learning the details of the program, she was quick to fill out an application, and her new lamp post was installed last week.

“People are more willing to do things in the dark than in better lit places,” Adamo said. “The light acts as a deterrent in the same way that a police car parked along the highway will cause people to slow down.”

Adamo only had to shell out $50 for the lamppost that was installed in front of his house, as it is in a targeted neighborhood due to the number of vacant lots, the need for additional lighting, and the overall income of residents.

Having more light along the sidewalk gives her a sense of security.

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“I will try to get some of my neighbors to sign up,” Adamo said. “But I strongly encourage everyone to look into the program.”

Even outside of targeted areas, city homeowners can order a street light for half the $500 price as long as it’s placed within 5 feet of a sidewalk.

Although installation assistance is available for those with disabilities, the vast majority of residents should be able to install the streetlights themselves since they are solar powered, meaning there there is no wiring.

Plus, there’s no need to dig as a long auger is used to anchor the lamp post into the ground and a leveling device is included to ensure it stays straight.

Finn Cavanaugh, project engineer with the city’s Department of Public Works, pointed out that streetlights can be tuned to provide a daylight-like glow or a warmer, yellowish one.

Additionally, there are high and low power settings, the latter allowing the lamppost to provide some light even during the darkest days of winter, he added. In the few years since its inception, the city’s program has resulted in approximately 600 additional streetlights in its neighborhoods.

While applications for the streetlight program are now being accepted, the city and American Electric Power are also changing their streetlights from sodium vapor to energy-efficient, lower-maintenance LEDs.

Along with these benefits, the new streetlights are also more directional, meaning they are able to direct light where it is needed without creating unnecessary light pollution, which can affect sleep if it falls through windows. bedroom.

South Bend engineer Finn Cavanaugh helps homeowner Mary Adamo with her newly installed solar street light Tuesday, August 2, 2022.

About 9,000 streetlights in the city are owned by American Electric Power and 3,000 by the city. City officials hope that this project will be completed later this year.

Residents interested in learning more about the lamppost program should visit southbendin.gov/lamppost or call the engineering department at 574-235-9251.

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