The Wellesley Municipal Light Plant (MLP) recently asked residents to respond to an online survey in order to gather input to help them determine the most appropriate street lighting solutions for the town. Last year the MLP submitted an application for a grant to complete a light emitting diode (LED) retrofit of 3,100 streetlights. The Massachusetts Department of Energy Resources (DOER) responded to the grant application by giving preliminarily approval. Final approval to move forward with the project was then granted by the DOER on April 3, 2017.
Donald Newell, Assistant Director of Engineering and Line Operations at the MLP and Raina McManus, a board member of the Wellesley Natural Resources Commission (NRC) recently took time to answer some questions about the online survey and how the street lighting project is moving forward.
The Swellesley Report: How many people responded to the lighting survey?
Don Newell: 457 individuals participated in the survey, with 357 completing the full survey and assessing all lighting options.
The Swellesley Report: According to the survey results, what were residents’ overall impression of Wellesley’s current streetlights? (The streetlights on Croton Street and Pine Street were retrofitted to allow residents to evaluate three alternative approaches. Each streetlight was marked with different colored bands on the poles. Survey respondents were asked to take the time to visit both Croton Street and Pine Street in the evening and provide their feedback.)
Donald Newell: Perceptions of the current streetlights were “about right/acceptable” at 51%; too dim at 39%; and too bright at 10%…The lights on Croton Street were preferred over both the lights on Pine Street and the existing lights. The lights on Pine Street were reported to be too bright with too much glare, while those on Croton were reported to be more desirable.
Raina McManus: On Croton and Pine, most people felt the lights on Pine were way too light. They liked the color temperature on Croton.
The Swellesley Report: One of the survey questions read, “There are some advantages to changing the light fixtures. Please indicate which of these three potential benefits is most important 1) Financial Savings to the Town; 2) Improving Driver and Pedestrian Safety/Visibility; 3) Achieving Environmental Benefits/Carbon Reduction.”
How did survey takers respond?
Donald Newell: Two thirds of residents ranked “Improving Driver and Pedestrian Safety/Visibility” as the most important benefit of changing the lights, with the remaining third fairly evenly split between “Achieving Environmental Benefits/Carbon Reduction” and “Financial Savings to the Town”.
The Swellesley Report: What lighting decisions were made as a result of the survey?
Donald Newell: The WMLP Staff used the feedback provided by survey respondents to inform decisions about the type and color of LED lights that would best meet the community needs.
Raina McManus: The MLP Board decided to go with lower Kelvins in the neighborhood, which was very encouraging. The higher the Kelvin, the more blue in the light, which makes the light much brighter. The brighter the light, the more disruptive to wildlife and human bodies. As a result of the survey, the MLP Board has decided to go with 2,700 Kelvins in the neighborhoods and 3,000 on the main roads. Wellesley will be the first town in Massachusetts to use 2,700 Kelvin in a residential setting. Other towns are at 5,000 or 4,000.
Let there be light (but not too much of it)
The Swellesley Report: Which lights, exactly, will be replaced?
Donald Newell: All “cobra head” style roadway fixtures are eligible for replacement as a part of this project. Decorative post-top fixtures are not eligible.
Raina McManus: Any lantern-type light will remain the same. The lantern-type lights were already fitted with LEDs a few years ago, and they are very bright.
The Swellesley Report: What about lights in environmentally sensitive areas (Boulder Brook, the Town Forest, and along Brookside Rd.)
Donald Newell: A final decision has yet to be made on lighting in environmentally sensitive areas.
Raina McManus: The NRC is very concerned about the effect of light pollution on trees…we asked if the MLP would hold back around the conservation land. We are hoping to identify an appropriate fixture for those environmentally sensitive areas such as around Boulder Brook, the Town Forest, and along Brookside Rd.
How much does it cost to get LED lit?
The Swellesley Report: How much money was the grant for?
Donald Newell: The DOER grant will reimburse the MLP for up to $281,000 based on 50% of the cost of fixtures and photo-eyes as well as some administrative costs.
The Swellesley Report: Will the Town have to kick in any money?
Donald Newell: The Town of Wellesley will provide $105,000 toward the project, and the MLP will provide the remaining balance.
This won’t hurt a bit
The Swellesley Report: Can you give a general summary of the work to be done and the timeline?
Donald Newell: MLP Line-crews will begin removing existing light fixtures and installing LED fixtures in mid-December. Crews will replace approximately six-hundred fixtures per month. Progress will be tracked and updates made available on the Town of Wellesley website.
The Swellesley Report: Will traffic be impacted in any way?
Donald Newell: Bucket trucks will be used to replace each light so while there will be some impact we expect it to be minimal, and we will utilize police detail officers on roadways where necessary.
The Swellesley Report: I have heard the following: “The LED retrofit will save taxpayers $125,000 annually and eliminate 930,000 kilowatt‐hours of electricity. The electricity reduction is the equivalent of taking 134 passenger vehicles off the roadway each year.”
The Swellesley Report: What is the source of this information?
Donald Newell: MLP staff calculations based on all 3,111 eligible fixtures being replaced.
The Swellesley Report: Is there a State-imposed deadline when Wellesley must install the 3,000 new lights and finish all work related to this grant? If so, when is that deadline? Will Wellesley be able to meet it?
Donald Newell: One requirement of the DOER Grant is that all fixtures must be installed by June 30, 2018. The WMLP is committed to meeting that deadline.
Updates on the project will be available on the WMLP pages of wellesleyma.gov website. You can also contact the MLP at 781‐235‐7600 to speak with Assistant Director, Don Newell or Line Supervisor, Kevin Bracken.