AASHTO Journal, 21 August 2015
The Michigan Department of Transportation told Detroit-area drivers that “your commute in Metro Detroit will soon by brighter and safer” as a result of a new public-private partnership to install and maintain thousands of energy-efficient LED highway lights to replace traditional fixtures.
It is just the latest effort by the agency to spread the lighting and energy saving benefits of light-emitting diodes through the state’s highway system. More on that below.
For the tri-county Detroit area, the agency said the State Administrative Board on Aug. 18 approved “the country’s first P3 dedicated to freeway lighting.”
That contract covers upgrades to freeway lighting in Macomb, Oakland and Wayne counties, which MDOT says will accelerate capital improvements to improve safety. Its stipulations include making the vendor responsible for keeping over 95 percent of the lights operational, compared with nearly 70 percent that are now working.
“Of the approximately 15,000 freeway lights in the metro area, 87 percent are now high-pressure sodium or metal halide fixtures,” the announcement noted. The P3 contract will replace those with LEDs in the first two years.
The agency said the lower percentage of lights now working, compared with the P3 contract requirement, is a result of a combination of “fiscal constraints, multiple instances of copper theft, and other challenges.”
The P3 vendor is Freeway Lighting Partners, a consortium led by Star America Fund with participation from Aldridge Electric, Parsons Brinkerhoff and Cofely Services. State officials expect the 15-year agreement to save taxpayers over the life of the contract.
The contract mandates that 90 percent of the lights are operational after the first year and 98 percent after the second year. FLP is contractually obligated to monitor all lighting infrastructure while identifying and repairing deficiencies.
MDOT said that “taxpayers will save as the annual cost of the services under this contract is expected to be lower than what MDOT would have to pay for upgrades. This contract also allows MDOT maintenance forces to focus on other issues.”
Meanwhile, the improved freeway lighting enhances motorists’ visibility and traffic safety. “Keeping our busy highways well-lit is vitally important for safety,” said Gov. Rick Snyder. “This innovative arrangement ensures that we have better, more efficient lights, improving the service for the residents and businesses using these roads every day.”
MDOT said the contract safeguards public funds through performance measures FLP must meet or exceed in order for the P3 vendor to earn maximum dollar value. If criteria is not met, there will be deductions in payment.
But the agreement allows for conversion to LED lights at economies of scale that lower equipment costs, while transferring risk and creating incentives to the private partner for operation and maintenance.
In another LED project, the agency said Aug. 17 that it received a rebate check of nearly $18,000 from Cloverland Electric Cooperative’s Energy Optimization program.
That incentive check followed MDOT’s completion in June of a $175,000 project that installed LEDs at the US-2/I-75 interchange and at the St. Ignace Welcome Center just north of the Mackinac Bridge.
Those upgrades are projected to save about $26,000 a year in energy costs, and the agency has said using longer-life LEDs also saves in MDOT in crew maintenance costs and safety.
As AASHTO Journal earlier reported, the agency also participated this summer in a project to replace traditional lighting with LEDs on the International Bridge linking the Michigan and Ontario at Sault Ste. Marie.