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Syracuse begins replacing 17,507 street lights; First up, the Valley

A worker replaces an old street light with a new LED light on Merritt Avenue, Tuesday, July 2, 2019.

SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Work began this week on one of Mayor Ben Walsh’s signature projects: Installing new street lights throughout the city.

The city bought all 17,507 of its street lights from National Grid earlier this year. Work is now underway to convert them to light emitting diodes -- a more energy-efficient type of lamp.

“This project is one of the ways we are taking control of our future," Walsh said in a statement. “With ownership of our street light network, we can reap the benefits of energy saving LED lights.”

Work began this week in the Valley. Crews will make their way south to north, covering the whole city. They’ll start with the standard “cobra head” lamps, then circle back to replace decorative lamps in areas like Armory Square.

Crews will replace about 3,000 lights each month. They’ll stop when winter comes and resume next spring. City officials expect the project to be done by the end of next year’s construction season.

The city borrowed $38 million to purchase all 17,507 lights from National Grid. The New York State Power Authority is providing assistance with the project and $500,000 to equip some lights with special hardware.

Walsh estimates the city will save $3 million a year in energy costs with the more efficient LED lights. Until recently, the city paid $5 million a year to National Grid for energy costs and maintenance.

That savings will more than cover the debt payments on the $38 million bond.

The LED light network is the backbone of Walsh’s “smart city” plan for Syracuse. The lights allow the city to maintain a citywide grid with options to install 5G hubs, WiFi routers, cameras or other types of technology that can be monitored and maintained from a single hub.

Light from the new lamps will be a brighter shade of white, compared to the orange-yellow light from the current ones. Light levels can be controlled by a computer hub at the Department of Public Works headquarters.

The network also allows crews to instantly identify when a light is out, compared to the current system which relies on observations and reporting from neighbors.

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