CHARLESTON, W.Va. — Construction on a more than $21 million interstate lighting project is underway in Charleston, the state Division of Highways said.
The project, which includes the installation of 106 high mast towers by contractors, will be done in three sections. Work on the initial section began earlier this fall between the I-64 Kanawha Turnpike exit in South Charleston and the Westmoreland exit along I-77 north in Charleston. That section will result in the construction of 42 new light towers at a cost of $8.2 million.
According to the DOH, the second section will go from the Yeager Bridge along I-64/I-77 to the Westmoreland exit. That work will include 49 new light towers at a projected cost of $8.4 million.
The final section will be from the Westmoreland exit to the I-77/I-79 split just north of Charleston. That will be 15 new light towers at a projected cost of $4.7 million.
Federal funding is helping pay for the work.
Lighting along the three interstates which converge in Capital City hasn’t been significantly changed since the system was completed in the 1970s. The new project is constructing the towers outside the interstate berm. Much of the current lighting system is anchored to the median walls on shorter poles.
Kanawha Commission President Kent Carper wrote a letter a year ago to state transportation officials calling for the lighting to be improved saying there were at least 135 lights out. Carper is now applauding Gov. Jim Justice and state Transportation Secretary Tom Smith.
“Kudos to the state. It’s a very dangerous situation and they are rectifying it,” Carper said.
Charleston Police Chief Steve Cooper said the project is “very appealing” from both a public safety and law enforcement perspective.
“That much more lighting is going to be very helpful for emergency responders and especially travelers. We have a lot of traffic volume that passes through Charleston,” Cooper said.
Other states have taken similar steps. North Carolina’s transportation system awarded a $31 million contract earlier this year for new interstate lighting at 350 different locations. The state said it will save $56 million in electrical and maintenance costs over 15 years. Most of the savings coming from the switch to LED lights.
The interstate system in Charleston was originally well-lit, but lighting technology has improved and it’s time to change, Carper said.
“You have different illumination devices now. Twenty million dollars goes a long way with light bulbs,” he said.
Cooper said the Charleston interstate system is known for a lot of twists and turns in a fairly small area and that can give motorists problems.
“In the daytime that’s easier to navigate,” Cooper said. “With so much more lighting at night I really think it’s going to make a huge difference.”
Most of the construction is currently focused between the Montrose and Oakwood Road exits of Interstate 64.