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Crain's Detroit Business

15,000 freeway lights in metro Detroit to be replaced with LED bulbs in MDOT partnership.

news and blog
  • 22 Oct. 2015
  • By: Rachel Premack

Using innovative contracting, the Michigan Department of Transportation is entering a public-private partnership agreement to upgrade and maintain freeway lights in Wayne, Oakland and Macomb counties.

MDOT is partnering with BlackRock Infrastructure and Freeway Lighting Partners LLC, both based in New York.

MDOT spokesperson Jeff Cranson said the 15-year contract is valued at $123 million. MDOT will also receive $79 million in federal funds. Overall, the lighting project will cost $145 million, including energy costs.

The country's first P3 dedicated to freeway lighting was approved in August by the State Administrative Board.

In what Cranson called a cost-saving measure, the partnership will replace all 15,000 freeway lights with LED bulbs. Presently, 87 percent of metro Detroit’s freeway lights are outdated high-pressure sodium or metal halide fixtures and about 30 percent are not functioning, according to MDOT. Savings during the 15-year contract are estimated at $13 million, Cranson said.

The P3 contract mandates that 90 percent of the lights are operational after the first year and 98 percent after the second year. The vendor is contractually obligated to monitor all lighting infrastructure while identifying and repairing deficiencies.

MDOT said the annual cost of the services under this contract is expected to be lower than what it would have to pay for upgrades. 

Cranson said new lighting is a top safety priority. “We’re not getting any new transportation revenue anytime soon, so a private-public partnership seemed like the best way to get the lights back on,” he said.

BlackRock will finance a 15-year term, including a two-year construction period. During this time, BlackRock will be responsible for keeping 95 percent of the lights operational.

Freeway Lighting Partners is a consortium led by Star America Fund with participation from Aldridge Electric, Parsons Brinkerhoff and Cofely Services

Lighting on metro Detroit freeways as well as within the financially constrained city continues to be a hot-button issue, as Crain’s has reported.