PORT TOWNSEND — Step one: Accept the state’s $177,460 Relight Washington grant to replace hundreds of street lights.
That’s the Port Townsend City Council’s next task after hearing a presentation Monday night about improving the lighting picture all over town.
In the council’s work session, city Public Works Director Steve King explained a proposal to replace some 467 high-pressure sodium lights with efficient, cost-saving LEDs, or light-emitting diodes.
The old street lights, King noted, cost an average of $17.25 per month per light. New LEDs run $9.81 per month per light — and “they don’t burn out. They last for 20 or 30 years,” he added.
After LEDs are installed, city workers can adjust their brightness one at a time, keeping residential neighborhoods relatively free of glare, King told the council.
At the same time, Port Townsend’s arterials need more and brighter lighting, he said.
With the arrival of the new LEDs, King envisions adding lamps to stretches including the S curve on Sims Way and to San Juan Avenue, Cherry Street and parts of Sheridan Street.
King is looking for feedback on the city’s lighting future. To reduce light pollution, Public Works could remove many neighborhood street lights: one every other block in the Uptown and North Beach areas, for example.
But the prevailing belief in many communities, King said, is the brighter the lights, the safer the streets.
King added there are recent conflicting studies on that, though. There are also many people who want their skies darker.
Mayor Michelle Sandoval is one.
“I do like sitting out at night and looking at the stars,” she said.
But as people move into town from urban areas, they may feel safer with brighter lights, on their streets and on their porches.
“I understand that feeling and that desire for security,” Sandoval said.
“But it is a different feeling to sit out at night and be able to see our sky.”
Reducing the number and brightness of city lights is “our primary policy question,” King told the council.
So while accepting the state grant is on the agenda for its meeting at 6:30 p.m. Monday, he hopes for feedback from the public throughout the coming weeks.
In an interview, King said the new, adjustable LEDs won’t be delivered and ready for the Jefferson County Public Utilities District contractors to install for “a few months.”
In the meantime, he added, people do have some control over lighting and safety.
Simply turning off porch and yard lights after the household goes to bed helps reduce light pollution, for “a true dark sky,” he said.
He also reminded the council about wearing high-visibility attire, carrying a flashlight and using bike lights, which are required by law after dark.
“Lighting yourself up, as a pedestrian or bicycle, is probably the best safety measure the public can take, no matter what we do with the [city] lights,” King said.
Jefferson County senior reporter Diane Urbani de la Paz can be reached at 360-417-3509 or email@example.com.