To the relief of residents who have complained for months about the persistent darkness along much of St. Charles Avenue, crews on Monday began repairing broken streetlights and replacing the bulbs with more energy-efficient LED lights.
A total of 336 lights will be converted between South Carrollton Avenue and Calliope Street over the next two weeks at a cost of about $400,000 — part of the citywide $14.7 million Energy Smart Streetlight Conversion Program, Public Works Director Lt. Col. Mark Jernigan said.
The St. Charles Avenue work begins as city workers wrap up a similar project on Interstate 10 through New Orleans East.
Workers also will straighten all leaning light poles on St. Charles, though that work may take another week or two, Jernigan said.
Broken streetlights on St. Charles Avenue after dusk have been a sore subject all year for residents, who voiced concerns that it was unsafe during Mardi Gras and an embarrassment on such a well-known New Orleans avenue.
With an estimated 70 percent to 80 percent of the lights out, the St. Charles Avenue Association organized a “Real Lights, Real Fast” campaign to spur action on the issue.
Jernigan described the project as a “team effort” among the Regional Transit Authority, Entergy and the city. The RTA made repairs to its underground infrastructure during the work on the St. Charles Avenue streetcar tracks, and Entergy followed up to ensure that all the light poles had power.
The city’s overall goal is to convert 20,000 conventional streetlights to energy-efficient LED streetlights, which have a life span of seven to 10 years, compared with two to three years for conventional bulbs. LED bulbs also use 30 percent to 50 percent less energy and provide better lighting.
As Monday’s work began, St. Charles Avenue resident Rob Stuart Vail wondered if the work was the sign of another major tourist event to come. When told the lights would be repaired on the entire avenue, he was pleased.
“That’ll be good,” he said. “Some of my friends don’t dare go out of their house at night, it’s so dark.”
A schedule of repairs can be found at www.nola.gov/dpw/streetlights.