A citywide project hopes to shine some light on Albuquerque’s future.
“This is a new day,” community activist Frank Martinez said as, behind him, brand new LED streetlights illuminated the streets of Martineztown.
“It’s going to be significant in our future and in the quality of our life,” Martinez said to a crowd of around 20 people Tuesday evening at the unveiling of the EnvisionABQ project.
The Martineztown neighborhood served as a pilot project and, eventually, the city expects to have such LED lights shine from every pole in the city.
The company in charge of the project, Citelum, plans to complete the $20 million project in 12 months and will maintain the streetlights for another 15 years.
“When this is fully implemented, the citizens are going to be tickled pink and we’re going to be a lot safer for it,” Martinez said.
He said the new lights will be a crime deterrent, enhance public safety for cyclists and pedestrians while improving traffic flow and boosting economic development.
Martinez praised Mayor Richard Berry and others in the outgoing administration for giving neighborhoods the “running room” necessary to get projects like this done.
Berry thanked those who live in South Martineztown for leading the pilot project and called Martinez a mentor and hero.
“I’m just really proud to be here and kick this off,” the mayor said to a crowd of residents, community members and construction workers.
Berry said the citywide project will pay for itself through an estimated $19 million in energy savings and involve no tax increase while keeping the streets better lit.
LED, or light-emitting diode, lights last longer and use less electricity than the high-pressure sodium street lights currently used.
Over the years, the conversion will reduce the city’s carbon footprint by almost 123,000 metric tons, Berry said, equivalent to taking 26,000 cars off the road.
“This initiative will not only make our city more beautiful and energy efficient, but it will also improve public safety,” he said. “Crime does not like a stage and by strategically lighting up our neighborhoods we can make Albuquerque safer.”
Berry said the cost savings generated through energy efficiency can go toward additional lighting and other public safety measures in high crime areas of Albuquerque.
During the unveiling, Roy Reine admired the brightness and span of the new LED streetlights compared with the older ones that extend into the distance.
Reine, who has lived in Martineztown for 38 years, said there has always been a lighting problem in the neighborhood.
“It’s always dim,” he said, particularly around Longfellow Elementary School and the nearby park where the lights would be turned off during weekends.
Reine said during one late-night stroll, his walking partner tripped over a curb and broke her arm.
It’s not just bad visibility, however, he said. In the past few years, the neighborhood has had a new issue arise.
“We have a lot of vagrants that are coming in…camping out,” Reine said. “It gives them an opportunity to move around and not have people looking at them, people watching them.”
Although Reine often sees the homeless pitch tents and sleep around Longfellow Elementary and the nearby park, he knows the problem stretches across the city.
“Everybody needs it,” he said of the brighter streetlights. “More at the park, more at the school, more everywhere.”