Bringing light to darkness
Reno, Nev., has begun a multi-phased lighting project to brighten its downtown area. The project is a result of two studies that recommended ways to improve safety for pedestrians along streets outside the city’s casino district.
In 1999, the Reno City Council identified the need to improve downtown lighting for pedestrian safety, and the city hired San Francisco-based Horton-Lees Lighting Design to complete a lighting study. The consultant prepared the Reno Street Lighting Masterplan Study that pointed out that the city’s downtown gaming district, where most of the large casinos are located, featured excessive levels of street lighting, bright marquee lights and neon signs, but other areas of town were not well lit. The study recommended that the city upgrade existing lighting in certain areas and add new light poles to “fill the void” in areas that got very dark at night, according to project manager Wayne Nash, assistant civil engineer for the city.
In 2002, the city’s Downtown Task Force published a report that analyzed conditions in the city that created or increased the perception of neighborhood blight. It identified dark areas of town that contrasted sharply to the bright lights of the downtown gaming and business corridor. “After dark, many of the visual cues that direct daytime visitors around the city are less visible, and site lighting must be used to compensate for this deficiency,” the report stated. “Effective illumination of signage, walkways, patch intersections and site ‘landmarks’ facilitates way finding and reinforces a sense of safety and security.”
Based on the findings of the two studies, the city began upgrading light poles and lights throughout downtown. As its existing 250-watt high-pressure sodium lights burn out, the city replaces them with 175-watt metal halide lights. According to Nash, metal halide lights are just as bright as high-pressure sodium lights, but metal halide lights produce blue light that is easier to see than the yellow light of high-pressure sodium lights. City officials expect the new lights also will save energy.
In addition to replacing lights, the city is replacing “mushroom-style” light poles installed in the 1970s with poles that have a vintage, turn-of-the-century design. The city has purchased about 350 aluminum single- and double-fixture “candy cane” poles from Niles, Ill.-based Sternberg Vintage Lighting to replace existing fixtures and to add poles where none existed before.
The project concentrates on areas where there has been little or no lighting in the past. The new light poles have been installed on Arlington Avenue north of the Truckee River — an area that includes city parks and a new white-water rafting course. Other light poles have been placed on sidewalks at the West Street Plaza, which hosts special events, musical presentations and other activities throughout the year. The new lights have reduced dark shadows in pedestrian areas, providing a more attractive and safer environment for people to walk to special events and retail stores.
The city has added an artistic element to many of the new light poles. About 60 of the poles have been decorated with steel and copper kinetic sculptures by a local artist to delineate Reno’s active Arts District.
Although the downtown area has been the emphasis of the project so far, the city also plans to improve lighting on adjacent streets. Long-term plans include making lighting levels and light standards in the downtown area uniform and balancing brighter levels of illumination in the core with lower levels in adjacent neighborhoods. The entire budget for the Downtown Master Lighting Plan project, including the next/final phase, is about $1 million, which is funded by the city’s Capital Improvement Plan program.