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Roads may get safer with brighter LED lighting
Georgia Power initiative also cost efficient, according to utility
Black Drive is one of some 50 roads or neighborhoods throughout Hall County that are set to get better streetlight visibility through an LED conversion effort by Georgia Power.

Edward Glenn welcomed the news last week that Black Drive near Gainesville is on a list to get brighter streetlights.

“It’s dangerous to walk up and down the street at night,” he said of the neighborhood where he has lived for 50 years, an impoverished area that has struggled with crime.

Streetlights on some 50 roads or neighborhoods throughout Hall County could get improved as part of Georgia Power’s LED Roadway Initiative, which the utility began in February.

A similar effort is planned on commercial streets in Gainesville, with all the work finished possibly by spring, officials have said.

And Flowery Branch will install LED bulbs in 134 streetlights at an additional annual cost of about $153, according to City Manager Bill Andrew.

“I feel this initiative will provide safer roadways in Hall County,” Hall County Sheriff Gerald Couch said.

The broader spectrum of light emitted by the LED fixtures “will better illuminate the roadways and road signs, which in turn will provide safer travel for vehicles, bicyclists and pedestrians.

“Overall this initiative will better service the community in a positive way, and I am very much in support of it.”

Gainesville Police Chief Carol Martin agreed.

“We are looking forward to the changeover,” she said. “Anything that will make it easier for drivers and pedestrians to see or be seen is a win for all in terms of safety.”

The Georgia Power effort calls for converting high-pressure sodium roadway lights to new energy-efficient LEDs.

“LED lighting offers long-term energy savings for our customers that offset the installation cost for Georgia Power, as well as the additional value of overall higher light quality and longer life,” utility spokeswoman Ashley Stukes said.

The initiative doesn’t cost governments anything and, according to a utility fact sheet, residential customers “will not incur any upfront or out-of-pocket costs to have their current roadway lights changed to LED.”

“There is not a local or total Georgia Power project cost available for this,” Georgia Power spokesman Jacob Hawkins said. “LED fixtures actually offer long-term savings over the life of the fixture that offset the installation cost for Georgia Power.”

Georgia Power has converted 50,000 lights across the state as part of a four-phase effort going through 2018.

Locally, the conversion will affect about 1,800 lights in Gainesville and 850 in Hall.

Nick Burnett, the city’s traffic operations superintendent, didn’t have a list of the streets where the work would take place or a schedule for the work, deferring to Georgia Power, which also didn’t have a list immediately available.

But, Burnett said, “it’s going to be pretty much everywhere throughout the city, wherever there is Georgia Power lighting.”

Lights will be changed in residential neighborhoods if the neighborhoods have “cobra head”
streetlights. Georgia Power is not yet changing decorative street lighting in neighborhoods, but that may come later, possibly 2017, Stukes said.

Those living on Hall County streets without lights won’t be affected by the Georgia Power program, as the county doesn’t install or maintain lights, Hall County Traffic Engineer Scott Puckett said.

The county can create a street lighting “special taxing district” for a subdivision, paying the costs for lights and then dividing further costs among homeowners through an addition to property tax bills.

“All new residential subdivisions since 2002 are automatically included in the program,”
Puckett said.

As for other utilities serving Hall County, Sawnee Electric Membership Corp. has been
installing LED lights “for some time, but not a wholesale conversion,” spokesman Blake C. House said.

“We install LEDs and change out conventional lights to LEDs, upon request only,” he said.

Sawnee also offers up to a $500 rebate per location “to commercial customers if they
perform an LED conversion,” House said.

Jackson Electric Membership Corp. is not involved in an LED conversion program with
governments at this time, spokeswoman Bonnie Jones said.

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