In the same week that the city launched a plan to convert 600 streetlights in neighborhoods a week to the more energy efficient LED lights, the FOX 8 Defenders have learned there's another plan to improve lighting and lighting infrastructure on interstates throughout New Orleans.
In Alfred Green's New Orleans East neighborhood, streetlights on his block off Morrison near the lake appear to be the more efficient ones. But for at least the last year, Green says he's tried to get answers from the city on lights on the busiest roadway in and out of New Orleans.
"It's very uncomfortable, unsafe, unacceptable," explained Green. When the sun goes down, it's like a light switch goes off along some stretches of Interstate 10.
"From the Michoud Boulevard exit headed west into New Orleans, that's when I've noticed the inadequate lighting all the way through and up to the I-610 split, which is beyond the High Rise," said Green.
We found in the opposite direction, eastbound, more outages in Mid-City before the Superdome. It's also dark in spots near the High Rise, but when you cross the Industrial Canal on the High Rise into New Orleans East, the darkness is more prevalent.
"All of the interchanges - Crowder, Read, Bullard, Morrison - [have] very bad lighting, no lighting in some places," explained Green. "Speaking just for my family, I hate the thought of my wife or my son traveling those areas. What if there are mechanical breakdowns?"
The city's Department of Public Works says that's all about to change.
"We're gonna be mobilizing additional crews to do this work over and above the crews that are working on the conversion program so this is not gonna slow us down on the conversion program," said Department of Public Works Director, Lt. Col. Mark Jernigan.
He says $1.7 million in capital and infrastructure funding will be spent on improving interstate lights.
"That work is gonna' start, looks like right now, by the end of the month. We're gonna' start out at Michoud to the parish line and start to work our way back from the East," said Jernigan.
They'll first target I-10 in New Orleans East. Then, Jernigan says they'll work on I-610, the I-510 from Little Woods to Chalmette and also the Expressway.
He says the lighting infrastructure in spots has failed or needs an upgrade. In some cases, vandals have stolen the copper wiring.
"We're gonna be hardening a number of the boxes out on the sides of the road to prevent, you know, make it harder to steal the copper wiring, hard for vandals to come in and damage the system," said Jernigan.
It's a significant interstate lights project that can't start fast enough for Alfred Green.
"This is an entry and exit point to the city. What type of an image is this giving to visitors?" asked Green.
The city says expect the interstate lights improvement project to start by the end of July and last till the end of the year. For more on this project, or the $14.7 million conversion project to convert nearly 20,000 traditional streetlights to energy efficient LED lights over the next several months, visit www.nola.gov/dpw/streetlights.
The city also confirmed to the FOX 8 Defenders that the St. Charles Avenue corridor, even with its historic character, will be included in the conversion program.
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