New plan comes to light to bring better lighting for downtown streets

ST. LOUIS (KPLR) – There is a new $4 million dollar plan to make Downtown St. Louis safer, and it is not supposed to cost taxpayers a dime.

For a while it was just a lot of talk, until Chris Sanna was shot leaving a Cardinals game in a poorly lit part of downtown.

Now, the Cardinals are helping lead a private effort to replace the yellow sodium street lights downtown with white LED bulbs for safety, and color-changeable LED strips on the arms for flair, similar to the blue strips on the street light fixtures at St. Louis University.

'I think they are going to be the only cobra headed streetlights in the country that backlights the sidewalks,' said St. Louis Cardinals spokesman Ron Watermon.

The team is helping lead the charge to install new downtown LED lighting, which also will save on energy and maintenance, since they have to be replaced less often than the old bulbs.  Plus the LED lights have another safety advantage.

'Most sodium high pressure bulbs in most street lights don`t work effectively at night for video surveillance because you can`t make out colors, you can`t make out shapes, so it sort of defeats the purpose of the surveillance video,' Watermon said.

To replace all 2300 fixtures downtown will be expensive, so local business leaders decided it would be faster to raise the money privately, starting with the $400,000 they need to pay for a test run later this year along Market Street, from the Riverfront to Jefferson Avenue.

They`ve already raised $300,000; now they are looking at creative ways to come up with the rest of the money to fund the entire plan, including an 'Adopt a Light' program.

'When they adopt a light, we are actually giving people a desk lamp that looks like the (real thing) and has the little color strip on it so I think it is going to be really fun,' said Missy Kelley,

President and CEO of Downtown St. Louis, Inc.

And while $4 million may sounds like a lot to raise privately, Kelley seems confident corporate donors will see the light.

'Once people see it in action they are going to realize what a difference it will make across downtown,' she said.

There are a few of the fixtures already installed at Seventh Street and Walnut Street that were placed there as part of the design challenge.

Right now the color-changeable LED strips are set to glow red for the Cardinals, but they can be set to blue for the Blues, green for St. Patrick`s Day and every color in between.

They hope to have the all the lights downtown converted by the end of 2017.