Super bright, energy-efficient LED street lights are beginning to replace Brownsville’s old high-pressure sodium-vapor lights, which have been in widespread use for about 50 years.
It’s easy to tell which is which. The LED — light-emitting-diode — luminaires emit a bright white light compared to the warm yellow glow of the older lights. Cities around the country began switching to LEDs many years ago because they’re cheaper to operate, last longer and require less maintenance. Those are among the reasons the city of Brownsville is moving to LEDs.
“It’s innovation basically,” City Engineer Doroteo Garcia Jr. said. “We’re looking at ways to cut our costs. The city pays the light bill on these street lights. Our department is the one that manages the street lights.”
Brownsville Public Utilities Board is doing the work, replacing the old lights when they stop working or when a resident requests one through the city. The new LED luminaires can be seen aboard BPUB bucket trucks around town, ready for installation.
BPUB spokesman Ryan Greenfeld said 5,661 of Brownsville’s 11,717 sodium-vapor street lights had been replaced with LED luminaires as of Feb. 24, and that it’s estimated the city will be 100 percent LED within two and half years. The city currently pays BPUB a flat rate of $20,550 for street lights.
Per city ordinance 102-204(b), 10 years after the LED conversion is complete the city will be billed monthly based on fixture size and type — $7.14 a month for a 40-watt fixture compared to $10.07 for a 200-watt fixture, for instance.
Garcia said the new lights eventually will pay for themselves because they’re less costly to operate. As for public response, he admitted that “it’s mixed.”