New lights modernize city

Published 12:00 am Tuesday, April 1, 2003

Listen hard enough, and you can almost hear the strains of “Jingle Bells” in the breeze above the Alabama River.

The vantage point is from the crest of the Edmund G. Pettus Bridge, looking toward Broad Street, where at dusk motorists are shrouded with the last light of a rapidly fading day.

From atop the bridge, you can see a long line of traffic lights, hip-hopping from green to yellow to red, then back in the opposite direction. The lights splash adjacent cars in Christmas colors – bright, clear, festive.

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Nothing unusual about that, except that these lights are new – and modern.

Over the past months, every red and green traffic signal light in the City of Selma has been replaced with Light Emitting Diodes (LED). The diodes replaced the 150-watt incandescent bulbs – like those in a typical house lamp – that were being used. The old bulbs – which last about a year before burning out – are now only being used for the yellow portion of the three-tiered signal lights – the diode technology currently available only in red and green.

Coupled with new, more efficient florescent lighting recently installed in city of Selma office buildings, the diode lights – which have been used for decades in such devices as cameras and other digital electronics – will save the city of Selma about $35,000 per year, says Greg Sparks, business development manager with Southern Company Energy Solutions, parent company of Alabama Power and Light.

“Selma was really on the cutting edge of this new technology,” Sparks says. “Most other cities still have incandescent lights.”

The project – signal lights and interior office lighting – took about four months to complete at a cost of $180,000.

The diode signals – which are composed of about 100 tiny, individual lights – require less energy to power and last from 10-20 years before they need replacing.

The long lasting lights seem to be making a difference for drivers, too.

“We haven’t had enough time to look at the statistics, yet, but I have gotten an awful lot of people saying they can see them better – and that’s a good thing,” says Lt. David Evans, Selma Police Department traffic division commander.

Evans is partial to the new lights for a less utilitarian reason, too. “I sure notice them when I’m driving, because they stand out,” he says. “They are so bright that the red and green reminds me of Christmas.”