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June 6, 2018

‘Smart City’ projects come online in Portland

Photo / James McCarthy
Photo / James McCarthy
Portland began replacing all of its street lights in January with new, energy-efficient LED light fixtures, a project expected to save taxpayers $1 million annually. The conversion is now about 90% completed.

About the LED street lights

LED streetlights offer several advantages over older lighting technologies, including energy efficiency that can reduce electricity consumption by as much as 75%

Portland's LED project is made possible by the city's recent acquisition of the streetlights from Central Maine Power for $497,000, which was allocated in the city's fiscal year 2018 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 the cost to about $150,000 per year.

Portland city officials reported this week on the progress in 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.

The work is scheduled to be complete at the end of June and until then the new lights are turned on and off by a photocell, just like the old ones.

Several of the other planned Phase 1 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

The city reported in its news release that by mid-June motorists will notice a 20% to 30% reduction in traveling times through Morrill's Corner as a result of smart traffic signals that have been installed there. Sensors will detect vehicles approaching the intersection from all directions — up and down Forest, Allen and Stevens avenues, Bishop Street and Warren Avenue. 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 1 in that project, with Woodfords Corner following and, ultimately, all of the lights on Forest Avenue 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 at City Hall

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.

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