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Medford sees the light

Almost every street light in Medford will be replaced in the coming months under a program that will result in no extra costs for the city.

“It’s an offer you can’t refuse,” said Cory Crebbin, director of Medford Public Works.

The city worked out an arrangement with Ameresco Inc. of Massachusetts to replace existing high-pressure sodium lights with more energy efficient light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, which also produce better light and are more dark-sky compliant.

Crebbin said the city has paid about $600,000 annually for electricity, and he expects that amount to drop by almost two-thirds.

Ameresco worked out a deal with the city to finance 8,000 new lights by taking roughly two-thirds of the saved electricity dollars for a period of about 10 years.

The new lights last about four times as long as the older style.

He said he anticipates that instead of replacing some 800 bulbs a year, he should see a significant decline in replacements, a costly undertaking for city crews.

Crebbin said Ameresco had approached the city previously with offers to replace the bulbs, but the state Public Utility Commission charged a flat fee for electricity for street lights, so there would have been no savings.

However the PUC has changed its rules so that cities get a better rate if they install LEDs.

All city and utility-owned street lights will be converted, including in parks and parking lots.

In 2019, Medford converted a small portion of its lights to LED.

Crebbin said the city has been in conversations with Pacific Power to change out about 200 street lights in the city that the company operates.

Once all the lights are converted, residents should see better light quality on Medford roads.

Crebbin said existing street lights can accept the LED bulbs, but older-style street light fixtures will be changed out in some locations.

The lights will greatly reduce the glow that obscures the night sky, he said, though not completely.

The Ameresco project should be completed in 2021.

Medford had previously installed 69 LED lights every 120 feet at various points along the Bear Creek Greenway from McAndrews Road to Bear Creek Park.

Reach reporter Damian Mann at 541-776-4476 or dmann@rosebudmedia.com. Follow him on Twitter @reporterdm.

Streetlights illuminate the way along Central Avenue in downtown Medford on Friday evening. (Andy Atkinson / Mail Tribune)