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Downtown St. Louis street lights are gradually going to get 'smarter'

Downtown St. Louis street lights are gradually going to get 'smarter'

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LED light fixture

One of the new downtown LED light fixtures installed for demonstration purposes on Market Street in a photo taken in the summer of 2019. Photo courtesy of Ted Stegeman.

ST. LOUIS — The next phase of a futuristic overhaul of downtown St. Louis streetlights is expected to get underway Monday as workers begin installing 500 LED fixtures that can be adjusted to different intensities for special events.

The privately funded project includes colorful light strips that can be programmed individually with various patterns, depending on the event or season.

The fixtures will be attached to existing poles over the next six weeks or so along Market Street between the Old Courthouse and the western end of Union Station.

The installation also will cover streets in an area generally bounded by Market, Tucker Boulevard, Clark Avenue and 20th Street. That takes in the Enterprise Center-Stifel Theater district, Union Station and points in between.

Missy Kelley, president and CEO of Downtown STL Inc., said 300 more such fixtures are expected to be installed near Busch Stadium in March as the baseball season approaches.

“The colored strips will give us the opportunity to do multiple things,” she said. “We have the ability to change colors and add movement.”

The ability to adjust the lights’ intensity upward to “daylight level” can be used after events such as Blues games, she said. Another key feature: the lights focus directly on both streets and sidewalks, making it safer for pedestrians.

Each fixture will be outfitted with computers through which the city could in coming years add features such as cameras, gunshot detectors, weather sensors and pedestrian counters.

“It’s expandable; this is relatively new,” said Ted Stegeman, the CEO of Hazelwood-based Labyrinth Smart Infrastructure, which custom-designed the apparatus for downtown St. Louis.

“It gives you the ability to add on as different technologies evolve. There’s an ability to communicate through streetlights to your (smart)phone.”

An example, he said, is the possibility of programming a walking tour of downtown through the lights.

Kelley said the current installation, costing about $1 million, will be funded mainly by Lodging Hospitality Management, which owns Union Station and the Hilton St. Louis at the Ballpark.

She said the Blues, Cardinals and Downtown STL’s community improvement district also are kicking in some money.

The organization hopes to raise a total of $4.6 million to put the fixtures throughout downtown by 2021. Kelley said she hopes that fundraising for later phases will pick up as the benefits of the new lighting become apparent after the coming installation.

Downtown STL kicked off the project in 2016; at that time, officials hoped that it could be completed by the end of 2017. Fundraising difficulties were the prime reason for the delay, Kelley said.

The organization funded a pilot program that in 2017 installed 140 new fixtures on poles along Market.

Those included separate focused lighting for the street and sidewalk, plus LED strips on the lighting arms that could be turned one color.

The new strips will go beyond that, Stegeman said, with the ability to program them with various patterns such as a rainbow, a waterfall, a lava flow or an American flag. Moreover, he said the new fixtures will allow separate levels of intensity on the sidewalk and street for the first time.

He said those are among the aspects of the lights that aren’t being used elsewhere.

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