One on street lights, and one on bike trails. Both are great news.
All 165,000 of Houston’s streetlights will be converted to more efficient LEDs over the next five years, halving electricity use and cutting air pollution in what Mayor Annise Parker said will be one of the nation’s largest such initiatives.
Also on Friday, the city said it had struck a deal to open up land under power lines for the construction of hike and bike trails, the result of years of negotiations in Austin to enact necessary legislation and months of local discussions. Both the trails and streetlights announcements involved agreements with CenterPoint Energy.
The switch from yellowish high-pressure sodium, mercury vapor and metal halide streetlights to bluish light-emitting diodes, or LEDs, may require no added city investment. Officials with the city and CenterPoint, which owns the streetlights, project that a long-term drop in maintenance costs will offset the up-front cost of installation.
LED lights draw less power and last longer than traditional bulbs.
Parker said the move would help the city reach its goal of lowering greenhouse gas emissions produced by municipal operations by 10 percent by 2016. Once finished, the mayor said, the switch will save the city a projected $28 million in electricity costs over 10 years.
“In addition to being good for the planet, if we can cut energy consumption it’s also really good for the city’s bottom line,” Parker said.
Regarding the trails agreement, CenterPoint says there are 923 miles of right of way in Harris County, including 410 in the city of Houston. Those involved in the effort have estimated about 140 miles of right of way sit under large transmission lines, which make the most sense for trails.
In making the announcement, CenterPoint also presented a $1.5 million check for trail construction.
Houston voters in 2012 approved $100 million in bonds to be combined with private and grant funds for the $205 million Bayou Greenway Initiative to expand the city’s trail system along bayous.
The bayous largely run west to east, Parker said, requiring more north-south connections – and, conveniently, many transmissions corridors run north-south.
“We also have a lot of miles of bayou trails to install,” the mayor said, “but this allows us to make a more complete system.”
See here, here, here, and here for the background on the bike trails stuff, and here for the Mayor’s press release. It’s a beautiful thing being able to save millions of dollars without having to cut anything, isn’t it? The right-of-way trails have the potential to be transformative for the city’s – and the county’s – bike infrastructure. Like I said, great news all around.