LED lighting comes to historic Joliet area with questions

Gas-lamp style fixtures getting new and improved lighting, but will the ambience be the same?

Joliet is modernizing streetlights with some questions being asked about the impact on the historic feel of two neighborhoods.

The update will include conversion to LED lighting in gas lamp look-a-like fixtures on residential streets in the Cathedral Area and St. Pat’s neighborhoods. The gas-lamp styled fixtures themselves would be replaced with so-called cobra fixtures on major roads in those areas, including Glenwood Avenue.

The city expects to save $550,000 on the conversion because of a special incentive being offered by ComEd for the conversion to more energy efficient lighting.

Still, two high-profile residents of the Cathedral Area questioned the impact of the conversion.

“It just seems like such a shame because it’s going to take away from the historic ambience of our neighborhood,” Councilwoman Jan Quillman told the Joliet City Council Public Service Committee last week when it considered a contract for the lighting.

Quillman told the committee that she was speaking as a resident of the neighborhood.

When the matter came to the full council for a vote, Quillman joined other council members in a unanimous vote for a $277,176 contract with Graybar Services for nearly 2,000 streetlights around Joliet.

Quillman said she did so with the understanding that staff would talk with neighborhood groups in the Cathedral Area and St. Pat’s. One of her concerns, Quillman said, was that residents were not aware that the change was in the works, noting she had found out that morning.

Public Works Director Greg Ruddy said Tuesday those discussions have been held, and a decision is still to be made on the lighting color for residential streets in those two neighborhoods. But LED lighting will replace the metal halide bulbs in the streetlights now.

“The metal halide is being phased out,” Ruddy said. “They’re going to be difficult to obtain in the future.”

The fixtures in the residential streets will remain gas-lamp style but those on the major streets considered connector routes will be converted to the cobra style as has been done in past years as LED lighting was installed in period streetlights on Plainfield Road.

Quinn Adamowski, a Cathedral Area resident who serves on a number of city boards and commissions, also spoke on the matter at last week’s meeting of the Public Service Committee, asking that the change in fixtures be reconsidered.

“They’re not cheap,” Adamowski said. “They weren’t cheap when they were bought. I think a lot of municipalities would appreciate having something like that.”

Bob Okon

Bob Okon covers local government for The Herald-News