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IN CHICAGO, OTHER COLD-WEATHER CITIES, New High-Tech Traffic Lights Pose Winter Traffic Danger!


This holiday season, you may have spotted some of the ultra-bright LED Christmas lights placed on houses all over town.  The LED bulbs are far brighter, last longer, throw off no heat, and are far more energy efficient.  Indeed, the new bulbs expend 90% less energy than the old lamps.

As an added incentive for cost-conscious municipalities across IL, local government entities can take advantage of special grants from the Illinois Clean Energy Community Foundation to defray much of the cost of the installation of new energy-efficient traffic lights.  So far, the agency has awarded nearly $10 Million in grant money to fund retrofitting old traffic signals across the state.

The same ultra-bright, green lighting technology has been installed across the Chicago area in Traffic Signals and Stoplights.  Problem is, when the snow flies each winter - and, here in Chicago, it usually flies quite a bit - the traffic signal lights may become covered in snow.  An obscured traffic signal light could result in a serious traffic accident.

Yes, special heating wire can be installed to melt the snow covering LED signals, but such a move negates much of the cost savings from installing the lights themselves.

The common sense method for removing snow involves dispatching municipal employees with brooms and extension poles to clear the snow, which some towns have done.  But county officials in and around Chicago contend it is rare for the lights to become obscured - the snow must be heavy, and wet, and wind blown.  They cite only a couple of incidences each year when special snow removal might be required.

Gerry Simth, in his Chicago Tribune story from December 29th, spoke of a woman from far west suburban Oswego IL who was involved in a fatal head-on collision when intersection signals were obscured last April by heavy snow. 

Were the lights at the intersection the old, incandescent variety, they would have melted the snow and been more visible.  Some contend her traffic death might not have occurred.

Police see the concern, but advise drivers to approach an intersection with obscured traffic signals - in any weather - to approach with caution and extra care. 


Posted: Thursday, December 31, 2009 4:09 PM by Dean's Team


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