Nearly 3 miles of lights are out above I-495, WTOP finds out why

It’s dark out there for drivers on Interstate 495. WTOP learned there are 40 lights out between just two exits. Now, the Maryland State Highway Administration is answering the question — why aren’t the lights on?

On I-495 East between Connecticut Avenue and the next exit at Silver Spring, there are 40 lights out over the highway. Last week, three streetlights in that 2.7 mile stretch were illuminated and three were flashing.

WTOP reached out to the SHA, which maintains the lights, to see why there was such an outage. As soon as WTOP reached out, a few came back on.

The State Highway Administration couldn’t say how long the majority of the streetlights had been out, but Danny Allman with SHA said that it performs “lighting audits” monthly to ensure the lights are operational. Sometimes, a local jurisdiction or utility company has the responsibility to maintain streetlights, but in this case along the outer loop, these lights fell under SHA purview.

While it was not an emergency, the SHA agreed it’s an important safety issue.

“The State Highway Administration is aware of this outage, and we have crews on the scene that are actively working to investigate the cause of the lighting outage. Several lights have been brought back online since the repairs began,” the administration said in an email.

Outages can be reported by requesting service for nonemergencies on the SHA’s website. But Allman said the old age of the streetlamps is driving some of the issues.

“Often, due to aging underground infrastructure such as cables and conduits and electrical cabinets, when moisture enters these systems, it can cause a fault that will affect many lights in the system,” Allman said. “Crashes can cause poles to be knocked down which could potentially disrupt the power to multiple fixtures.”

Since WTOP reported the outage, a few more lights over I-495 East have come back on with bright LED bulbs. Allman also noted that crews are replacing light bulbs with LED bulbs working south from Frederick toward I-495.

Megan Cloherty

WTOP Investigative Reporter Megan Cloherty primarily covers breaking news, crime and courts.

Federal News Network Logo
Log in to your WTOP account for notifications and alerts customized for you.

Sign up