July 31, 2007

Light the way -- the right way

When ODOT finished its reworking of Highway 126 through Redmond, creating the Highland-Glacier couplet, the city was fortunate enough to be able to install more of vintage-looking streetlights on the section that is covered by the Downtown Urban Renewal District.

Light poles like ours are very popular in 'historic' downtown areas throughout the U.S. They are seen as a much more aesthetically pleasing alternative to sterile cobra lights, both as architectural detail and lighting source.

The trouble with Redmond's lights, topped with a very common globe type called "acorn," is their poor design for the nighttime hours. The lights look great during the day, adding to ambiance of the downtown streets. But at night the glass globes, akin to a bare incandescent light bulb in a dark room, give off a glare that impairs drivers, irritates downtown residents and patrons, and adds to the general light pollution and energy waste in Redmond.

Unfortunately, the lights are a fairly new addition to the downtown landscape, purchased with Urban Renewal dollars just a few years ago. Vintage glass globes with 'cut-off' features (distributing light down, where it belongs) are available but would be an expensive purchase if replacement was done for all the poles. Hopefully, the city will realize its error in this light choice and switch to cut-off globes as the current ones need replacement.

Drivers, stargazers, and downtown visitors will thank them.

On the positive side, two of the best things about downtown's light poles are the banners and flower baskets added by the chamber of commerce. The 'Welcome to Redmond' banners - with a new color and design for every season - are a pleasant sight and a wonderful sentiment for visitors and residents. They jazz up downtown streets even when the flowers die and the trees are bare. In the winter the chamber strings twinkling white lights along the bases and in summer it hangs colorful flower baskets from the arms of each light pole.

Trouble is, street lights are supposed to be as useful and attractive at night as during the day. As soon as we get the proper fixtures, we'll have the best-looking lights in Central Oregon - night and day.

-- Redmond Spokesman editorial

No comments: