Detroit’s street lighting system has been in increasingly serious disrepair for some time, with minimal infrastructure investment having been made for at least the last 20 years. When the Public Lighting Authority was created, roughly 40 percent of the street lights were not working for reasons that included copper theft, bulb outages, vandalism, obsolete technology, lack of repair staff and a lack of funds to pay for repairs.
Something had to change.
The Public Lighting Authority (PLA) is a state-created authority with the mission to improve, modernize and maintain the street lighting infrastructure in the City of Detroit with brighter, more reliable, more energy efficient lights. It is a completely separate legal entity from the City of Detroit.
The legislation that created the Authority allocated $12.5 million per year from the City’s Utility User Tax to pay off bonds that are issued to finance these critically needed improvements to Detroit’s public lighting system that will last well into the future.
This dedicated revenue stream and its independent status enabled the PLA and the Michigan Finance Authority to sell $185 million in bonds to fund the relighting of the city. The original goal was to sell $160 million worth of bonds, but a very favorable interest rate of 4.53 percent enabled the authority to sell $185 million in bonds, providing funds for an additional 10,000 lights, meaning a total of 65,000 lights will be installed.
In February 2014, we began rebuilding Detroit’s street lighting infrastructure by installing new, bright energy efficient LED lights in our neighborhoods first. Today, street lights have been installed in every Detroit ZIP code and we’re on schedule to complete relighting Detroit by the end of 2016 with 65,000 street lights.