PHILADELPHIA (CBS) – The City of Philadelphia has been replacing those high-wattage incandescent bulbs in traffic signals on thousands of street corners with energy-saving LEDs in red, yellow, and green, saving the city hundreds of thousands of dollars per year in electricity charges.

But the LED lights operate much cooler than the old bulbs, creating a danger when they become encrusted with snow.

City Councilman Frank Rizzo says Wednesday night’s big snowstorm left many traffic signals in the city snow covered — and the snow didn’t melt, he says, because the city is switching to the LED signals.

Rizzo says that Thursday morning, driving on Broad Street, he saw drivers unable to tell if the lights at intersections were red or green because the snow on them hadn’t melted. And he thinks that’s because the city installed LED lights in place of incandescent bulbs.

“I saw that occurring, where the snow covered over the red, yellow, and green lights. And it made it very dangerous for people,” he told KYW Newsradio.

Were people running red lights?

“Yes, absolutely. I don’t think they were doing it intentionally. I just think they couldn’t see,” he said.

The Nutter administration admits the LED signals run cooler than the old style. But officials say they save the city between $700,000 and $1 million a year, because the LED bulbs are more efficient and require less maintenance.

If a signal is covered, the mayor’s spokesman says, drivers should proceed with caution. The Streets Department is in the process of installing about 27,000 of them at intersections throughout the city.

Reported by Mike Dunn, KYW Newsradio 1060.

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