County plans project to install better performing streetlights around the island

Hawaii County is working to improve streetlights around the Big Island.

The Department of Public Works Traffic Division will implement a new project in three phases to change the type of lighting, as well as the location and number of lights currently used.


In the first phase, crews will exchange existing, dim LED lights on county roads by September 2020, starting with approximately 1,500 lights in South Hilo and North Kona.

Those lights mostly will be on main roads in Hilo and Kailua-Kona before the department branches out to exchange lights in other areas, said Division Chief Aaron Takaba.

According to Takaba, Mayor Harry Kim reached out to the department “to discuss some areas he felt we should make some improvements, because it was dark.”

Overall, the county plans to install new light fixtures that are better performing but meet the county’s current lighting ordinance, Takaba said.

“Our plan is to do a full streetlight exchange,” he said.

Takaba said there are two particular wattages “shown to be getting dim over time” that the county is looking to change out by September 2020, but he hopes to have all lights replaced — roughly between 10,000 and 11,000 fixtures around the island — by September 2021.

Several years ago, about the time the county made a “pretty significant revision” to its lighting ordinance, the county converted from low-pressure sodium lights to LED lights in an effort to provide some energy savings and address concerns by the observatories on Maunakea, Takaba said.

The new lights will still be LED, “but we’re looking at fixtures with higher lumens output,” Takaba said, adding that one of the issues with the existing lights is that they are “concentrated” and “directional.”

New lights will be 35 watts primarily in residential areas, and 70 watts and 85 watts on main roads, with the 85-watt lights primarily on main collector roads and signalized intersections.

According to the county, phase one is estimated to cost $1 million.

Phase two will add lights to existing utility-company-owned poles around the island.

Takaba said about 40 poles were identified along Kilauea Avenue and Kinoole Street in Hilo, but that phase likely will expand to Kona and perhaps Waimea and Waikoloa.

Phase three will install streetlights on new county-owned poles.

As part of the streetlight improvement efforts, the county also will launch a pilot project to install and monitor “smart” streetlights along Kapiolani Street, between Lanikaula and Mohouli streets, in Hilo between September and December of this year.

Takaba said the equipment will allow the division employees to remotely view and monitor the street lights from their office, to determine if the lights are off or malfunctioning. Employees can control dimming of those lights.

“One of the good things with that system is if it works for us, it eliminates us having to drive around town as much to do surveillance,” Takaba said, and the department won’t have to be so reliant on the public for information.

It will be “more of a proactive measure versus a reactive (measure).”

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