Thursday, June 7, 2018

‘Smart City’ Projects Come Online in Portland

Residents, visitors, and commuters to see many changes and improvements across the city 


PORTLAND, Maine -- The City of Portland is making great progress with its new LED streetlight project and the implementation of several ‘smart city’ projects that utilize innovation and technology to streamline and enhance city services.

In January, the City began replacing all of its streetlights with new, energy-efficient LED light fixtures. The conversion of the cobra head streetlights to LED is about 90% complete. Technicians continue to build out the lighting control network so that City staff will then be able to control light levels in the neighborhoods. This work is scheduled to be complete at the end of June, until then the new lights are turned on and off by a photocell, just like the old ones.

Several of the other planned phase one projects, including public WiFi, exterior lighting at City Hall, Deering Oaks Fountain lighting, and intelligent traffic signals have come online or will be online in the next few weeks.

Smart Traffic Signals

In mid-June, motorists will notice a 20-30% reduction in traveling times through Morrill’s Corner  thanks to smart traffic signals that have been installed there. Sensors will detect vehicles approaching the intersection from all directions - up and down Forest Ave, Allen Ave, Stevens Ave, Bishop St, and Warren Ave. They will respond to actual traffic conditions in real time, which will significantly reduce wait times. All of the lights in the intersection will communicate with each other and an algorithm will determine the most efficient timing sequence for the lights.

Morrill’s Corner is phase one, with Woodfords Corner following, and ultimately all of the lights on Forest Ave to Deering Oaks Park. The City is also seeking to install similar smart traffic signals on Commercial Street and Franklin Street to better flow traffic and ease congestion issues. Traffic flow will improve even further as additional intersections come online because they will share information with one another.

Public WiFi

Public WiFi is currently online in Monument Square and Post Office/Tommy’s Park with a network name of “PortlandFreeWiFi”. These two locations will serve as a pilot to see how much people use them before the city expands to other locations in phase two.

New Lighting

City Hall’s exterior lighting is getting an overhaul from the previous six lights that adorned the building. Now, the face of the building as well as the clock tower will have operational colored lights that can be programmed with movement. City Hall will be lit up in rainbow colors for the month of June to celebrate Pride Month. Deering Oaks Fountain has also received new lighting that can be controlled in color.

About the LED street lights

LED streetlights offer several advantages over older lighting technologies:

Energy Efficient -- LED lights can reduce electricity consumption for street lighting by 75%.

Better Light -- LED lighting allows people to see colors more clearly, which makes it easier to recognize people and objects on the streets and sidewalks.

Reduced Glare --  It is easy to aim LEDs to shine light where it should be and to avoid shining it where it is unwanted.

Long Life -- LED lighting has an extremely long life which reduces overall maintenance costs.

The City specified lights with a warm color temperature of 3000K to avoid the metallic blue light associated with some LEDs. This follows the recommendations of the International Dark Sky Association and the American Medical Association.

The project is made possible by the City’s recent acquisition of the streetlights from Central Maine Power. Portland is the first city in Maine to do so under the provisions of a state law enacted in 2013 that allows municipalities to purchase utility-owned street lighting equipment in their communities and to replace it with energy efficient LED lighting. City staff and partners from TEN Connected Solutions and Bernstein Shur worked with CMP on an agreement in conformance with PUC rules to transfer ownership to the City of the lamps, fixtures, and mast arms that attach the lights to the poles. The $497,000 cost to purchase the street lighting assets from CMP was allocated in the City’s FY2018 Capital Improvement Plan. 

Buying the streetlights and converting them to LED will provide the City with a savings of more than $1 million annually. In the past, the City paid CMP a monthly fee for the use of each fixture in addition to the cost of electricity. This averaged about $1.2 million annually. Purchasing the lights and switching to energy efficient LEDs will reduce this cost to about $150,000 per year.

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