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Since 1899, in Columbus, Ohio, the Division of Electricity- under the auspices of the Department of Public Utilities- has been on a mission to provide street lights for the entire city. At that time, only a few hundred arch lights shined brightly in Columbus' quaint, neighborhood night skies. But Columbus has grown, and only recently has developed a strategy to meet the current demand. Currently 39,000 street lights brighten part of the city, and over 50,000 additional lights will be needed to illuminate the rest. Street light installation has extended beyond the relatively compact, central city neighborhoods of the turn-of-the-century. Other challenges besides the "nuts and bolts" of labor and lights, however, needed to be addressed as well. Growth and development issues will add to the complexity of street lighting programs, in terms of both implementation and maintenance. As this system grows, a master plan will need to better position the Division to fairly and impartially serve Columbus residents. And Columbus citizens agree. They voted "yes" in 1994 to a bond initiative for "Project 20/20": a mandate for the city to plan and provide all neighborhoods with street lights to add safety and security. It is the mission of this master plan process, however, to go beyond safety and security in order to develop a plan sensitive to the specific history and aesthetics of each community. The enormous task for master planning Project 20/20 involves, among other things, the determination of lighting options for residents, of specific neighborhood boundaries, of citizen involvement through organized committees, and the coordination and building of a mock-up site. In conjunction with the locally renowned engineering firm Ralph and Curl which specializes in lighting projects, NBBJ, one of the largest architectural firms in the world, has been retained by the city for the project. A project like the Columbus comprehensive Street Lighting Master Plan is particularly well-suited to this engineering and architecture team, as the firms have collaborated on several historic downtown streetscape projects. NBBJ/Ralph and Curl's method has been especially sensitive to the aesthetic and historical considerations of neighborhoods. Columbus, after all, is composed of over 150 neighborhoods, each expressing a proud history and style. Victorian Village, for example, a neighborhood that dates back to the late 1800's, currently lights some of its streets with beautiful, Victorian-style post-top fixtures with underground wiring. "We know of no other city that has endeavored to provide and involve its citizens in such a comprehensive study of its street lighting system," remarks Patrik Bowman, Planning Director for NBBJ's side of the project. "Our main concern for this project is that we provide choices to neighborhoods. We are already finding that people appreciate the citizen involvement we are building into the planning process." Bowman, of NBBJ's Planning and Landscape Architecture Studio, works with Jessica Kramer, a graduate Landscape Architect who will be part of the team making recommendations to the City of Columbus. Criteria for priority lighting will include the type of land use development abutting the roadway or walkway, the type of roadway classification, and the number of accidents reported in the area and nighttime security needs. Roadway conditions will also be a factor, such as the width of pavement and location of curbs adjacent and within the roadway; the severity of grades and curves; the location of very high volume driveways, intersections and interchanges; and the number and positioning of such landmarks as overpasses, underpasses and trees. Based on input from neighborhood committees, it is anticipated that many neighborhoods will want to choose--and pay for--more aesthetically pleasing alternatives. The Division of Electricity has estimated that it can service the entire city of Columbus with a cobra head fixture at no cost to the taxpayer. Design guidelines will take into account residents' desire for function and beauty. The planning team will make recommendations on appropriate luminaire choices for the various neighborhoods and develop a process by which each neighborhood may choose an alternative standard. The city will also assess neighborhood residents who want decorative lighting, based on the cost of the fixtures. The methods of payment for decorative fixtures constitutes the third phase of the master plan development process. Options will be considered, and recommended with the underlying consideration of bringing order, consistency and economy to the street light system. The city charter allows for an assessment program for decorative post-top lighting, which averages about $1,500 per property in a neighborhood. In order for the Columbus City council to approve such an assessment, petitioners must obtain the signatures of at least sixty percent of the abutting property owners. "We will publish The Street Lighting Master Plan as a 'user's manual' so the public can understand the city's goals in a graphic form, and make it easier for citizens to participate-- an extremely valuable consideration for the plan's success," explains Bowman. The Master Plan, slated for completion this summer, will be submitted to Columbus City Council for approval. Assuming Council approves the recommendations, NBBJ's plan for project 20/20 will have the force of law. LASN Philosophy of Street Lights The basic functions of street lighting are to provide safety and security. However, to promote the image of a visually appealing and uncluttered city, it is also very important that street lighting be approached from the standpoints of orientation and aesthetics. Functionally, the primary purpose of street lighting is to provide safety, security and orientation. Street lighting allows people to complete tasks at night. Aesthetically, street lighting must go beyond its primary function of illumination and serve to reinforce the existing physical organization of the City at night and to enhance the image and best features of the City during the day. Safety - refers to the ability of the users, both pedestrians and drivers, to reach their destinations without causing inadvertent physical harm to themselves or others. Particular concern in the City context are areas of conflict between automobiles and pedestrians. Security - the freedom from deliberate harm or threat by others. Street lighting must therefore create a sense of security. Good lighting design contributes to an environment that appears well maintained, well defined and without shadowy hiding places. This not only promotes a sense of security but also deters potential assailants. Orientation - the development of the visual sense of location, destination, direction and route. This assists drivers and pedestrians with their desired activities (understanding driving lanes, intersections, pedestrian crosswalks, location buildings, entrances, etc.) Patterns of luminaires and the alignment of poles should be designed to provide visual guidances. Aesthetics - refer to the street light's ability to contribute to a visually appealing and distinctive image for the neighborhoods and the City of Columbus as a whole. Street lights should be compatible with their surroundings during the day, should not contribute to visual clutter, and should help transform a street into an attractive, public place for its users day or night. WASTED LIGHT-Light directed upwards rather than towards the ground. CONTROLLED LIGHT-Light directed toward the ground. This is one of the best ways to avoid light pollution. GLARE-Results from too much light making things harder to see, forming harsh shadows (and good hiding places) as well as blind spots for drivers. OVERLIGHTING-Can be avoided by not duplicating light fixtures. LIGHT TRESPASS-Results from light "spilling over" from one property onto adjoining property. CLUTTER ("noise")- Any factors that interfere with or distract the user's attention away from the desired visual signals (signs regarding entry or displaying information, etc.).

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June 18, 2019, 9:07 pm PDT

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