State saves $5,000 by turning off some streetlights overnight in Anchorage

Published: Apr. 18, 2019 at 4:03 PM AKDT
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An experiment involving turning off the streetlights in Anchorage saved the Alaska Department of Transportation thousands of dollars.

It was a pilot project that started in July of 2017 on Minnesota Drive from International Airport Road to O'Malley Road at its intersection with the Old Seward Highway.

DOT turned off the lights from Midnight until 5:00 in the morning for the past several months, saving about $5,000 over the course of a year.

"In this day and age we're really looking for ways to save general fund dollars, to preserve them for really high-level important things like snow and ice removal," Shannon McCarthy, a spokesperson for DOT, said.

McCarthy says the department spends $2.2 million on lighting in the central region for about 8,500 light fixtures.

"Our lighting costs are among one of the more expensive things that we do in terms of our operating budget. Our operating budget really comes directly from the general funds," McCarthy said.

Not counting 2019 here's the number of wrecks McCarthy says were reported since the pilot program began:

Two no injury wrecks with one minor injury.

A collision with a moose.

One vehicle was run off road – speeding over the limit cited.

One vehicle was run off road – operating under influence – minor injury.

Anchorage Police spokesperson MJ Thim wrote in an email: "We are working with our partners at DOT on this pilot program to address any public safety issues."

Some drivers in Anchorage applauded the department for looking at ways to save money.

"I think it would be just fine without the lights on if it saves a little bit of money," Pete Nolan from Anchorage said, "unless it becomes some sort of a danger or there are accidents caused then I would say let's stop it, but otherwise I'd say I agree with it."

"During the summer months I don't think that will make that much of a difference," Brian Protsman, also from Anchorage, said, "but in the winter I don't think that's a very good idea."

McCarthy said the pilot program will be expanded to other parts of the state including portions of the Glenn Highway and the lights between the interchanges of the Sterling Highway between mileposts 80-83.