LEWISTON — The city has begun converting its streetlights to LED fixtures, and is inviting residents to track the progress online.

Late last year, city officials announced more than 2,600 city lights would be converted for efficiency purposes after favorable bids allowed them to move ahead with more replacements than originally proposed.

On Monday, a city news released announced the contractor on the project, TEN Connected Solutions, is beginning the transition. The first area to be upgraded is the neighborhood between Main Street and the Androscoggin River, between Nimitz Street and Larrabee Road.

City Administrator Ed Barrett said Wednesday the installations will be done over the next three months. The city has also established a link on its Geographic Information System that will allow residents to track the progress. 

Like other municipalities, the city has been working gradually to switch to LED lights to reduce electric and maintenance costs. The lights have been used increasingly in everyday fixtures because of lower energy consumption and longer life than incandescent or other types of lighting.

The city has already replaced some downtown streetlights with LEDs, but the new project essentially takes care of all remaining lights in the city. 

Last year, Lewiston budgeted $550,000 toward the project, expecting to get about 700 lights replaced. Instead, the money paid for nearly double that.

Due to the favorable financial numbers, the City Council authorized another $402,033 to do 1,101 more lights for a total of 2,546.

When complete, the city will have replaced 2,620 streetlights at a cost of $993,002, producing $218,000 in annual electric savings. The investment is estimated to be paid back in about 4 1/2 years.

In larger municipalities, such as Portland, LED lights with built-in public Wi-Fi and data-reporting have been implemented.

Barrett said Wednesday the lights in Lewiston will not have those capabilities, but the city is “in the process of seeking a consultant who can help us develop a longer-term strategy that could lead in that direction.”

He said once a strategy is in place, the lights could be used for complex tasks, including managing traffic signals and doing traffic counts. 

Public Works Director Dale Doughty said the LEDs will be 40, 60 or 115 watts, depending on the location.

Misty Parker, Lewiston’s economic development specialist, told the City Council in November a grant initiative with the John T. Gorman Foundation could lead to more light upgrades downtown, including Wi-Fi capabilities. 

Last year in Auburn, officials approved a plan to buy all 1,250 of its public streetlights from Central Maine Power and convert them to LEDs, a move the city said would cut electricity costs by about 85 percent.

The total project is expected to cost more than $700,000, which would be bonded and repaid through the energy savings. After the switch to LEDs, Auburn expects to save about $200,000 annually.

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Caleb Bryant of On Target Utility Services works Wednesday afternoon on a light pole on Jenkins Street in Lewiston. He and several crews will be working throughout the city over the next few weeks upgrading more than 2,600 streetlights to energy-efficient LED bulbs. (Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham)

Caleb Bryant of On Target Utility Services tests a newly installed bulb Wednesday afternoon by holding his hand over the sensor on Jenkins Street in Lewiston. He and several crews will be working throughout the city over the next few weeks upgrading more than 2,600 streetlights to energy-efficient LED bulbs. (Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham)

Caleb Bryant of On Target Utility Services works Wednesday afternoon on a utility pole on Jenkins Street in Lewiston. He and several crews will be working throughout the city over the next few weeks upgrading more than 2,600 streetlights to energy-efficient LED bulbs. (Sun Journal photo by Russ Dillingham)

Click here to track Lewiston’s progress installing LED streetlights. Or go to www.lewistonmaine.gov, and click on the GIS page.