Above: Street lights on East Ohio Street and other Northside business districts will be replaced.

by William Park

A city-wide initiative to convert high-pressure sodium streetlights in Pittsburgh’s 32 business districts to LED lights will benefit many areas in the Northside.

Installations for new lights have been in progress for the past few months and will be completed by the end of the year. The targeted streets in District 1 include East Ohio Street, California Avenue, Brighton Road, Lowrie Street and Perrysville Avenue in the Observatory Hill business district.

LED lights, both energy efficient and environmentally friendly, will reduce the district’s energy costs $650,000 a year.

On Perrysville Avenue, lights are also being installed in sidewalks, a safety measure that will make night-time walking easier.

While the project will improve public safety, it also “brings about an aesthetic that we haven’t had … in our community for a long time,” said Roxanne Tuinstra, secretary of Observatory Hill Inc.

LED lights have a high color rendering index, which mean that they have the ability to reproduce an object’s color seen under natural sunlight. Sodium vapor lights, on the other hand, have a more yellow tint and also must be replaced more often.

Barbara Burns, a former city council member who served from 2000-2004, believes that the better lighting should encourage more private and public investment.

“All lighting is not created equal. Having a fuller understanding of lighting enhances the retail experience,” she said.

Better lighting, she hopes, will attract more people to the business districts, but it also has a strong communal value.

“[Business districts] are the main corridors of these communities. It’s where we do commerce as well as it’s the welcoming mat to all of us…. It was important to me that they be well lit, clean and presentable,” she said.

Burns hoped to achieve the project during her term, but ultimately lost the chance after leaving office in 2004.

Current City Council President Darlene Harris prioritized the project when she became a city council member in 2006.

“I put the money back in the budget so that [the neighborhood] could get what they wanted 10 years ago. Now, it’s becoming a reality,” Harris said.