Sacramento - Good news for California motorists: blacked out traffic
signals at major intersections could soon become a thing of the past.
The California Energy Commission is accepting applications from cities
and counties seeking to keep their traffic signals operating if the
electricity goes out. The new public safety program will provide battery
backup protection for high priority intersections equipped with LED
(light emitting diode) lamps.
"When electric power fails and signal lights go out at a busy corner,
traffic slows to a crawl," explained Energy Commissioner Robert Pernell.
"Automobile accidents increase, and pedestrians find that weaving their
way through the unregulated maze can be a dangerous, challenging
prospect. But now local governments can protect critical intersections
from power interruptions that can threaten motorists and pedestrians
Legislation passed last September sets aside $8.5 million in matching
grants to help pay for new battery backup systems. An additional $1.5
million was appropriated to pay for systems that were installed between
January 1 and September 28, 2001, in response to the State's electricity
Battery backup systems are the result of new technology. Newly installed
traffic signals utilize more efficient, LED lamps that cut the amount of
electricity used by each light from as much as 150 watts to between 10
to 25 watts. Since the electricity needed to operate LED lights can be
85 percent less than that needed by incandescent lamps, it's now
technically possible to provide backup power for critical intersections.
Earlier, the State allocated $11.8 million to help convert California
intersections to more efficient LED lights. These grants, along with
low-interest loans provided by the Energy Commission, have helped local
governments convert over a third of the State's intersections to LED
lights. The new signals now save over $8 million a year in energy costs
and reduce energy use by over 10 megawatts Ñ enough electricity to power
10,000 typical California homes.
"In addition to saving energy, LED traffic signals by themselves are
brighter and easier to see in foggy conditions," said Pernell. "Thanks
to their low energy use, we can now protect critical intersections that
use LEDs from dangerous power outages that can cause accidents."
Battery systems cost between $1,800 and $3,000, depending on the number
of lights at the intersection. Each system provides enough electricity
to operate the traffic signals in the normal, fully functioning mode or
as red flashing lights for two hours. After that time, the signals will
flash red for another two hours, alerting motorists that the
intersection is operating as a four-way stop.
Since local governments best understand which of their intersections are
most vulnerable, the Energy Commission established an advisory committee
of cities, counties, local utilities and CalTrans representatives. The
committee advised the Commission on ways to identify high priority
intersections, using criteria such as traffic volume, the number of
accidents and the presence of children at the intersection. Under the
program, cities or counties can receive up to 70 percent of the
equipment costs to install a backup system.
Applications for these matching grants are being accepted by the
Commission until a cutoff date of June 21, 2002. Grants for the battery
backup systems will be awarded starting in August 2002. Recipients will
then have one year to complete the installation.
Additional information can be found on the Energy Commission Website.
Application forms can be downloaded at: