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City’s Energy-Saving Traffic Lights Leaving Drivers In The Dark

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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  • Bob

    This happened last year when I was driving through Burlington, NJ. How did they solve it? They had a slow moving detail with fire trucks and sprayed water from the hoses at the lights to knock out the snow. Police stop traffic before the intersection, then 5-10 minutes at an intersection, and move on to the next one.

  • bottomline

    What good is saving a million bucks if they don’t do the job. I knew a businessman who was more interested in saving money then delivering the promised product – he’s out of business. I also want to point out, those “high wattage” traditional light bulbs, when used indoors, provide heat which reduces heating costs, e.g. save energy.

  • Anne Jonesj

    Frank Rizzo’s ignorance knows no limit. Please, vote this guy out next election!!

  • Justin Case

    It’s always something.

  • kay

    Changing the light-bulbs is NOT a safety issue. I was traveling in a section of the city with the older light-bulbs and experienced the exact same issue. The issue is TOO MUCH SNOW, not the type of light-bulbs used. Frank Risso, Jr obviously inherited his father’s lack of common sense. mcm is correct; when a light is out or you cannot see it, there is a proper traffic protocal. The only safety issue is idiots on the road who do not know this.

  • mcm

    If the traffic light is not operating correctly you should follow the rules of the road and treat it as a four way stop. I would rather save the money the other 364 days of the year.

  • john r

    Are the people that run this city dumb, stupid, or a combination of both. LED light are cooler that regular incandescent lights, wow, who would have known? Anyone with a half an ounce of lighitng knowledge could have told them this problem would occur. They could put small heating elements in them to deal with this problem, but the savings wouldn’t be as great. So, to heck with public safety, we’ll just save as much cash as possible, and if a few people die, so be it. Another example of the total incompetence running this city

    John R

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