LEWISTON – An effort to reduce the number of streetlights the city maintains in rural areas kicks off this week.

City crews have marked the poles for 326 streetlights with bright orange spray-painted Os. Those lights are scheduled to be removed later this summer.

“But right now we want the public to comment back on what we’re doing,” said Ian Houseal, the city’s energy czar. “That’s why we marked them, so people can identify them and let us know what they think.”

Lewiston has about 3,418 streetlights in its network, costing the city $500,000 a year in electricity. There are several kinds of lights in use, including high- and low-pressure sodium lights, mercury vapor, incandescent and LED fixtures. City staff has been counting each in an effort to track them, see how much they cost the city and how widely they are spaced from one another. One street lamp costs the city $132 per year to light, Houseal said.

A proposed policy would create three streetlight zones. In the busier, more dense downtown zone, the lights would be spaced about 220 feet apart. In the next, less dense zone, lights would be about 440 feet apart. Lights in the third, more rural zone, would be maintained at intersections, dead ends, cul-de-sacs and on steep hills.

Houseal said crews will begin removing the marked lamps, all of them located in the third zone, in July.

“I imagine it will take several weeks to remove them all,” he said.

Staff plans to recycle and reuse the streetlights that are being removed. Some will replace existing mercury or low pressure sodium lights in other parts of the city.

Houseal said the city is currently testing varieties of more efficient lighting. Staff just removed three induction lit lamps from Lincoln Street, just north of the water treatment plant and replaced them with LED lights. Both are more efficient systems with longer-lasting bulbs.

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