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For $38 million, Syracuse might buy its street lights from National Grid, upgrade to LED

Tom Magnarelli
WRVO Public Media
Street light in downtown Syracuse.

The city of Syracuse could spend $38 million to buy 17,000 street lights from National Grid and convert them to LED lighting with smart city technology. The project is expected to save the city money, operate more efficiently and improve its digital connections.

Through a Public Service Commission order, municipalities across National Grid’s territories are just now having the ability to buy their lighting systems. Jesse Scott with the New York Power Authority said the cost of LED technology has dropped and the quality is great.

“It’s a clearer, whiter light and provides a better color rendering index that which has the benefit of reduced traffic accidents, reduced crime and increased vision across the city,” Scott said. "This is pretty much the exclusive approach to energy efficiency of roadway lighting."

The city would also take part in the Smart City Demonstration Project through the power authority, which would add public Wi-Fi locations, 4G/5G Smart Poles, and sensors with cameras and microphones to monitor the weather, traffic and public safety.

“So, it’s about bridging the digital divide and making this an equitable project and implementing it in areas that need it the most,” Scott said. 

Syracuse is financially strapped, but officials in Mayor Ben Walsh’s administration said the project is expected to pay for itself with $3 million in annual savings on maintenance and energy costs. Construction would take about six months and could start in February. The Syracuse Common Council could vote on the measure Monday. 

Tom Magnarelli is a reporter covering the central New York and Syracuse area. He joined WRVO as a freelance reporter in 2012 while a student at Syracuse University and was hired full time in 2015. He has reported extensively on politics, education, arts and culture and other issues around central New York.