Wednesday, December 18, 2019

VDOT Policy Guidelines Promise Better LED Conversion

Earlier this year, the Virginia Department of Transportation finalized the first version of a memorandum on LED roadway lighting at the conclusion of a two year study period on LED conversion.  That process addressed concerns related to public health and vision, community character, and environmental impact raised by the Commonwealth Transportation Board in 2017 when considering an initial contract with Trane to supply lighting fixtures.

On December 18, 2019, Governor Northam signed the commonwealth's contract with Trane and announced the lighting "modernization" plan.  Read the full press release here The public announcement does make note of stakeholder input and measures to mitigate environmental impacts.

Virginia IDA has followed the evolution of the VDOT policy and reported on it to Virginia IDA membership.

From December's e-newsletter:

Our July newsletter reported on the promising outcome of VDOT's two year process for developing agency guidelines for conversion to LED roadway lighting. We knew that the Traffic Engineering Division's memorandum established a fixture standard of zero uplight, dominant CCT of 3,000K (with 4,000K in high speed and conflict zones and availability of 2700K), provision for elimination of existing unnecessary lighting, potential use of adaptive controls, and a goal of glare reduction. Now you can read VDOT's "Instructional and Informational Memorandum" in its entirety here.   This document serves as a foundational framework for the development of standards and criteria. Virginia IDA will be contributing to recommended language for effective implementation of practices that fulfill commitments to quality lighting.

Right: Participants in VDOT's October lighting demonstration and visual
comfort test.

 From July's e-newsletter:

Two years after halting a conversion to 4,000K LED roadway lighting across the commonwealth, Virginia has finalized a plan for implementing LED technology that takes into account its effects on human health and vision, community character, and our environment, including our night skies. The new guidelines will mitigate uplight that causes sky glow and emphasize "warmer" lights that years of experience and LED lessons-learned have shown residents across the country prefer.  

In September 2017 the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) paused a proposal to convert at least 10,000 and up to 75,000 streetlights to 4,000K LED fixtures when Commonwealth Transportation Board (CTB) member Scott Kasprowicz raised concerns about the potential negative public health and safety impacts and environmental harm of blue-rich light. (The previous year the American Medical Association had released its full report advising against the use of overly bright, glaring blue-white LED outdoor and roadway lighting.) The agency agreed to slow the process and referred the project for a Virginia Transportation Research Council study led by Dr. Ronald Gibbons, director of the Center of Infrastructure-Based Safety Systems at the Virginia Tech Transportation Institute. Bob Parks, LC, CFLC, MIES of the Smart Outdoor Lighting Alliance and member and former executive director of IDA, served in a pro bono consulting role to the CTB and VDOT.

On Wednesday, July 17, 2019 the Commonwealth Transportation Board approved VDOT's final version of the new lighting standards as presented in its Instructional and Informational Memorandum (not yet available online).
Some highlights of the future of Virginia's highway and street lighting: ​
  • All new fixture designs must have a classification rating of zero uplight
  • The majority of fixtures will have a Color Correlated Temperature (CCT) of 3,000K
  • 4,000K fixtures are designated  for high speed and high conflict areas such as ramps and intersections
  • 2,700K lighting will be an option for certain locations and speed zones    
  • The elimination of existing unnecessary lighting for which there is not a demonstrable, evidence-based need is a stated policy goal
  • Recommendation of lowest possible glare rating for all fixtures    
  • Provision for the use of adaptive controls to reduce illumination when and where it is not needed
Any policy is only as good as its implementation and Mr. Kasprowicz of the CTB noted that the memorandum is a "framework" for building out the necessary criteria and metrics to fulfill VDOT's commitments, which will be the next step.  Trane, the company awarded the state contract, will be demonstrating the ability of their fixture selections to meet the new state standards.

Read news coverage of the decision on WTOP and WAMU