City of Tulsa Plans To Turn On Its Highway Lights On Wednesday

Monday, August 30th 2010, 6:11 pm
By: News On 6

By Emory Bryan, The News On 6

TULSA, OK -- It's lights on for the City of Tulsa. The city plans to reactivate hundreds of highway lights on Wednesday.

It comes at a clear cost, but the impact on safety is less certain.

Last November, the city decided to turn off most highway lights to save money. Since then, there was at least one fatal accident where police officers thought lighting would have helped. It was a man pushing his car on Highway 75. 

The perception of extra safety is one of the driving reasons behind spending the money now.

Turning off the highway lights helped the city budget survive the downturn.

Despite the darkness, there was not a sudden increase in traffic accidents, in part because the city only turned off lights on straight highways where research shows that lights make the least difference on driver safety.

"We left most of those on at interchanges and junctions, because that's where all our traffic movement is all, those were left on during this course when we've shut all the lights off," said Mark Brown, City of Tulsa Traffic Engineer.

Brown says the savings is clear on having the lights off, but the priority now is getting them back on September 1st. 

View a map of where the lights are out.

It's clear that lighting can help a driver see beyond their headlights, but most new roads are designed without lights because of the cost and limited improvement to safety.

"If you do not have that lighting present, basically it's like driving anywhere else in the state where there is no highway lighting to speak of," Brown said.

"It represents we're open for business," said Chris Trail, Tulsa City Councilor.

Trail says business leaders and his constituents want the lights back on.

"That is something that I was surprised how important that is to a lot of the citizens," said Trail.

8/24/2010  Related Story: Tulsa Highway Lights To Be Turned On Next Week

The city spends $67,000 a month in electricity for the street lights that were never turned off. Reactivating the highway lights will cost another $45,000 a month.

For the last two months, the city has been making repairs to all the highway lights so they'll be ready to go back on Wednesday night.