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When the lights go on in DC, will they be too bright?

A street light in D.C. Some residents in D.C. worry that the District's plans to modernize its street lights could result in the lights being too bright and glaring. (WTOP/Patrick Roth)

WASHINGTON — D.C. is in the midst of modernizing its streetlights, converting mercury vapor lamps to LED lighting.

Some D.C. residents are carefully watching the District’s plans, hoping to keep streetlights warm and glowing instead of exceedingly bright and glaring.

“We are opposed to anything but 2,700-Kelvin streetlights, LED streetlights,” said Delores Bushong of Northeast, a member of the D.C. Street Light Task Force, a group of citizens concerned about the streetlights the city has been installing.

“The Kelvin is the color temperature, the warmness of the light — the lower the Kelvin, the warmer the light; the old-fashioned streetlights were more amber-colored,” said Rebecca Maydak, the Advisory Neighborhood Commission commissioner for Chevy Chase.

Some residents say 4,000-Kelvin lights installed by D.C. in some alleys in Chevy Chase between Broad Branch Road and 32nd Street meet the criteria for safety and security but the lights are way too bright.

“It’s like daylight all night long and the height of them is going right into everybody’s second floor windows,” Maydak said. “We’ve had people complain because their children couldn’t sleep … other people, the adults can’t sleep … blackout shades don’t work because it comes around the shade.”

D.C. hosted an informational meeting at the Mount Pleasant Library on Saturday afternoon about the proposed public/private partnership that will redo street lighting.

“This is a transition of all of our streetlights in the District, about 75,000, from their current state to an LED state,” said Kathryn Roos, DDOT manager of the lighting project.

About 5,500 streetlights have already been converted to LEDs, but the super-bright lights that may be keeping some people awake are targeted for replacement.

“We’re looking to eliminate the 4 and 5,000-Kelvin in the District right now … We’re looking at 2,700 in all of our neighborhoods — local streets, alleys, and we’re looking at 3,000 Kelvin for our main arterials and interstates, but that’s a proposal for right now,” Roos said.

Under consideration is a public/private partnership in which the city would contract with a private company to install and maintain the streetlights.

The D.C. Council Committee on Transportation and the Environment is expected to discuss the new street lighting proposal among other items on its agenda at its oversight hearing on Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 2:30 p.m.


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