• City of Tacoma QA
  • City of Tacoma OpenData

Adding New Streetlights

Many residential roads have no streetlights, or the lighting is sporadic, and Public Works periodically receives requests for the addition of new streetlights in the City.  But some lights are much easier to install than others.  There are three basic scenarios where the existing conditions have a huge impact on the cost of adding new lights:

  • Scenario 1 – No Overhead Infrastructure:  This is a scenario where the power and other utilities are all underground (or the power poles are in the alley), and there is no existing overhead infrastructure adjacent to the roadway.  In order to install new lights, new underground conduit, junction boxes, concrete bases, and poles would also need to be installed.  In established neighborhoods, this could mean having to remove and replace sidewalks, driveways, landscaping, fencing, walls, etc.  In cases like this, the cost varies, but can be around $10,000 to $15,000 per light or more.
  • Scenario 2 – Power Pole Nearby:  Sometimes there is an existing Tacoma Public Utility pole nearby, but not directly adjacent to the dark segment of street.  In order to install a new light there, a new wood pole would need to be installed and connected to the nearby utility pole.  That typically runs about $2,000 to $3,000 per light.
  • Scenario 3 – Power Pole Adjacent:  In a lot of cases however, there is already an existing TPU pole next to the dark street segment.  Usually, a new streetlight and mast arm can be installed on the existing pole.  This typically ranges between $800 and $1,000 per light.

Some requests for new lighting the City receives fits the 1st or 2nd scenario.  In those cases, the only mechanism to add new lighting currently available to property owners is to form an LID (Local Improvement District).  The 3rd scenario installs the most number of lights for the least amount of cost, and is where the City is focusing their limited resources.  Even then, the overall need is significant.

Using computer mapping software, the City was able to identify 3,870 dark street segments where there is already an existing power pole adjacent to the street segment.  The City prioritized and scored each dark segment based on nighttime accident history, school safety, and areas of high crime potentially affected by streetlighting.  Finally, the City applied the Equity Index in a systematic way to normalize the scoring in an equitable way, and ranked all 3,870 dark street segments based on the final results.

Using this methodology, the City installed 82 new streetlights in 2019/20, but the project was put on hold in March of 2020 due to the COVID pandemic.

The City Council approved funding for an additional 200 new streetlights on existing utility poles that will be installed during the 2021/2022 biennium.