Operation Night Light initiative between Indy, AES Indiana nears completion of street light conversions

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INDIANAPOLIS — Mayor Joe Hogsett announced Monday that a program launched a little more than three years ago in partnership with AES Indiana has reached a major milestone.

Operation Night Light, which began in 2016, started with Hogsett’s promise to lift a street light moratorium that was put in place by former Mayor William Hudnut in 1981.

“Even as our city grew by tens of thousands of people, [there were] no new street lights for 35 years,” said Hogsett.

Once the moratorium was lifted, 100 new lights were installed in the darkest areas of the city, marking completion of phase one of the initiative.

A 2016 IndyStar investigation revealed that the decades-long moratorium contributed to hundreds of pedestrian deaths since 1980. The study showed these deaths mostly happened in neighborhoods where residents were not able to pay for new lights themselves. 

Hogsett said one of the benefits of the conversions and additions of adding street lights includes brighter and clearer lighting for pedestrians and drivers on the road.

Saundra Jones, human services director for the Christamore House in Haughville, an area of the city where some of the latest improvements have taken place, agreed. She said they have a senior citizen building across the street from the community center, and lighting is crucial to the ability of many to be mobile.

“A lot of them do have the mobile chairs they have to use at night and in the evening to get down here to the Kroger store,” she said. “I know it’s gonna be beneficial for them to get out and safely mobilize themselves around the neighborhood to get around to places.”

Henri Gaither, chairman of the Haughville Strong Neighborhood Association said he is thankful for the investment in their community.

“As you know, Haughville’s been in the dark for a while and it’s always nice to shed light on situations, and this neighborhood is no different,” he said.

According to Hogsett, back in 2015 when he ran for mayor, he was consistently told by older adults particularly that, “After the sun goes down, I don’t come out of my house.”

“People feel safer when they know that there are lights on the streets so that they can come out on their porches or come outside the house after the sun goes down,” said Hogsett.

City-County Council President Vop Osili said the program is giving a preventative benefit to areas of the community, including his district, which includes Haughville.

“When there are eyes on a community, there’s a sense of ownership in that community and folks who maybe don’t want the best for that community are more reluctant to go into that community,” he shared.

Since this public-private sector partnership began between the city and AES Indiana, Hogsett said nearly 27,000 street lights across Marion County have been converted to high-efficiency LED fixtures.

In converting the bulbs on city-funded street lights from ones that omit a lower quality of light, while using more energy, to the LED lights, which use less energy and give off a brighter, clearer light, they have been able to make improvements in the interest of safety and cost efficiency, all while reducing the city’s carbon footprint.

The total number of streetlight conversions already completed puts the partners at about 97 percent of the way towards their goal.

Hogsett said crews with AES Indiana have been able to meet the goal within the timeline that was set in the original agreement between the city and AES Indiana, despite the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the agreement, the conversion only applies to the traditional cobra-head streetlight fixtures paid for by the city, which is just more than 27,000 lights.

In announcing the program several years back, Hogsett said by converting to high-efficiency LED technology, the city would see savings generated due to lower maintenance costs and energy usage. In turn, the money saved would be invested in installing up to 4,000 additional lights in areas of the city that need them most.

“Operation Night Light is a great example of how through partnership we can achieve our objectives of improving the quality of life for Indianapolis residents and long-term sustainability of the community,” said AES Indiana President & CEO Kristina Lund.

As savings have been observed, city leaders said 2,000 additional LED street lights have been approved for installation in areas where they are needed. The installation of these are expected to continue through 2025.

Suggested locations for the new lights are being received from residents. You can make suggestions here.

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