Bus shelter solar

After researching putting solar powered lighting at selected bus shelters, and replacing this non-functioning unit near 48th Street, the Transportation Committee elected on Tuesday to also examine the feasibility of instead converting to LED street lighting along Coastal Highway.

(July 13, 2018) Since launching a discussion in mid-May about adding solar-powered lighting at select bus shelters on Coastal Highway, Ocean City government is now investigating the feasibility of converting to LED street lights.

During its May meeting, the Transportation Committee asked the staff to investigate costs and funding sources for the proposed project.

Wayne Pryor, special project manager/grant coordinator, told the Transportation Committee on Tuesday that he had researched potential state and local government funding streams but identified no opportunities.

“It’s a pretty tough sell, but it’s a pretty unique item,” he said.

Pryor said Transit Manager Mark Rickards and Brian Connor, transportation administrative manager, found a wide range of costs depending on the level of illumination.

“The numbers I got from Brian and Mark were between $40,000-$120,000 just for the photo cells themselves,” he said.

Pryor recommended including the project costs in the city’s annual Transportation Plan fiscal year 2020 grant application with the Maryland Transit Administration, while alternatively suggesting examining converting high-pressure sodium cobra head street lights to LED.

“It would probably be plenty of lighting in those areas you’re concerned about,” he said.

Public Works Director Hal Adkins said, if a grant were to be awarded, the earliest funding would be available from state transit would be 2020. He also said the Federal Transit Administration is releasing more than $366 million nationally for discretionary grants but the disbursement date has yet to be determined.

“Mark [Rickards] is currently working with … MTA to put in grant-related requests and this will be one of them,” he said. “I’m not going to sugar-coat, I don’t think it will get any traction.”

Adkins also said Connor examined 49 bus shelters and initially identified 33 as needing illumination. That number was later narrowed to 18 priority spots.

City Engineer Terry McGean estimated the cost at $11,000 to purchase three solar lighting options from the city’s bus shelter provider, Columbia Equipment Company, to conduct pilot testing at half a dozen bus shelters.

Noting the initial conversation started without his input, Adkins asked for additional time to consult with Connor on the matter.

“It may be far cheaper to pursue and achieve the same goal with LED lighting installed by Delmarva Power, if the utility pole happens to be in close proximity to some of these sights,” he said. “You’ll achieve the same goal [and] it’s going to be out of reach to vandalism.”

Adkins has also been working with McGean to research the potential lighting conversion with engineers at Delmarva Power.

Based on anticipated energy savings with LED lights, Adkins said the city would likely recoup initial capital costs in less than two years.

 “You can save a lot of money [but] it’s a whole separate issue,” he said.

Adkins said City Manager Doug Miller has been kept updated on the still evolving discussions.

Councilman Dennis Dare reminded the commission there also are associated costs for providing and maintaining lighting fixtures, and that Delmarva Power passes to the end user.

“The policy has been if it’s within ten feet of a transformer, we don’t charge you for that installation [but] at a further distance you pay for that work,” he said. “That’s fair, but you end up with a system where the spacing isn’t right.”

Mayor Rick Meehan said the issue should be researched further to consider all available options.

“I just want to make sure whatever we do, light is our friend,” he said. “We want [people] to feel safe, especially in public areas.”

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