Lighting improvement projects planned for sections of downtown Springfield
By Peter Goonan, The Republican
SPRINGFIELD – Western Massachusetts Electric Co. has launched several lighting improvement projects in Springfield, including efforts to brighten up key intersections below Interstate 91 and atStearns Square in the downtown entertainment district.
The improvements were announced recently by representatives of WMECO and Mayor Domenic J. Sarno.
Some of the specific initiatives include: improved underpass lighting along the I-91 corridor in the South End and downtown; a research project to test the feasibility of new street light photocell monitors that detect malfunctioning and burned-out lamps; and a test of energy-efficient light emitting diode, or LED, bulbs.
“Springfield identified a number of lighting issues and we are pleased to work with them to find creative and cost-effective solutions,” said Peter J. Clarke, WMECO’s president and chief operating officer. “We have committed to this test to understand these new technologies and the economic viability of them.”
Sarno said he is pleased that WMECO is pursuing improvements deemed priorities by the city. The improvements are “important in improving public safety, quality of life and budgetary concerns,” he said.
Stearns Square, which has a concentration of restaurants and bars, will be provided with the photocell monitors and the LED bulbs that provide greater illumination, said Sandra Ahearn, a spokeswoman for WMECO.
A total of 53 photocell monitors are being placed in test locations throughout Springfield, she said.
There are approximately 13,500 street lights in Springfield.
The city has a billing dispute with WMECO, saying it has been overcharged by millions of dollars the past 25 years, including charges for repeated billing for burned-out lamps and nonexistent lights. The city claims it is owed between $12 million and $20 million for overcharges during that period, which is disputed by the utility.
Ahearn said the monitor pilot program is not connected to the city’s legal action, but rather part of an effort to work with all of its communities “to try to develop solutions to issues they identify.” The utility company invests in new technology and determines if it is cost-effective, she said.
The city has installed improved lighting at the State Street intersection under I-91, and will soon install similar lighting at the other major downtown-South End underpass intersections including Broad Street and Union Street, officials said.
Ahearn said she did not have a cost estimate for the various projects now being undertaken. The utility does cover a portion of the costs, and the city covers some costs related to the lighting improvements, she said.
WMECO is part of the Northeast Utilities system, and serves approximately 200,000 customers in 59 communities throughout Western Massachusetts