Most LED streetlights on hold due to community concerns

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Some residents of Volta Place NW in Georgetown have complained about the LED streetlights installed there. However, Judah Gluckman, an official with the District’s Office of Public-Private Partnerships, said the lights will be dimmable and their brightness can be tailored to the neighborhood. The technology will also notify the District Department of Transportation immediately when a light bulb goes bad thanks to remote control features. (Brian Kapur/The Current/February 2017)

Controversial plans to retrofit all District streetlights with LED fixtures are on hold in most residential areas, according to Ward 3 D.C. Council member Mary Cheh, as the D.C. Department of Transportation works to alleviate concerns about the lights it has installed so far.

The Transportation Department has been trying for years to shift to LEDs, which are widely considered more reliable and energy-efficient. But across the city, including in Chevy Chase and Georgetown, many residents have railed against the lights that have been installed thus far — calling them harsh and bright. They’ve also pointed to a 2016 American Medical Association report that LED lighting above the 4,000 Kelvin level can disrupt sleep and harm human health.

According to a message from Cheh’s office on local listservs, the Transportation Department has agreed to suspend most additional installations until opponents’ concerns have been addressed. The agency will proceed with new LEDs on highways, in communities where an advisory neighborhood commission requests the new lights, and in locations where the Metropolitan Police Department concludes that brighter light is required for safety, according to Cheh.

Cheh’s Committee on Transportation and the Environment will hold a roundtable hearing on LED streetlights at 11 a.m. May 3 in Room 123 of the Wilson Building, 1350 Pennsylvania Ave. NW. Residents wishing to testify should contact Aukima Benjamin at abenjamin@dccouncil.us or 202-724-8062.