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Interstate 35 to get lit, per City Council approval

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Kyle Martin, Staff Writer

Attention, citizens of Denton: It’s lit.

After the Denton City Council approved plans on July 25 to implement what’s called a continuous lighting system, parts of the city which touch Interstate 35 and I-35E will soon have more streetlights installed, making for safer roadways, as recommended by the Texas Department of Transportation.

On July 18 and 25, the council heard from city employees about two different lighting systems: safety lighting and continuous lighting. With construction of the 35Express highway widening project progressing, the city had to choose a system by weighing the options of both.

Safety lighting, which is a minimum requirement lighting system, would require 114 lamps and 56 wallpacks — lighting for underpasses and bridges — plus an estimated $10,500 in electricity costs annually. Maintenance on the light poles and bulbs would have been reimbursed by TxDOT.

“It’s kind of a misnomer because if you only have safety lighting, you’re not quite as safe because there’s gaps in the lighting in between the on-ramps and off-ramps,” said Galen Gillum, Denton's director of capital projects.

Continuous lighting would require an additional 164 lamps and double the electricity costs, estimated to be about $20,600 per year. 

The catch is that TxDOT will cover costs of installation and labor of either lighting system, which means the only cost of the safer, more luminous continuous lighting system would be the annual electricity and maintenance costs, saving the city about $700,000 on installation of the lights.  

““Looking at it like this, it’s a no-brainer,” Mayor Chris Watts said in a July 18 council meeting. “I mean, you’re talking about [roughly] $10,000 a year [extra] to get two-and-a-half, almost, the amount of lights that would make our city and the highway look very nice, very safe.”

The City Council approved the continuous lighting system.

“I think it’s a small price to pay,” Watts said.

Annually, Denton Municipal Energy replaces approximately five to 10 streetlight poles and 700 to 900 bulbs throughout the city, according to city reports. DME estimates only having to replace two to three streetlight poles annually due to vehicular crashes, further estimating about $11,000 in maintenance for I-35 lighting per year.

“It’s a safety issue,” council member Dalton Gregory said on July 18. “That’s what the city is here for.”

KYLE MARTIN can be reached at 940-566-6897. 

FEATURED IMAGE: Cars travel along Interstate 35E on Saturday near UNT in Denton where there is little lighting beyond the headlights of passing cars. The Denton City Council has decided to install additional lighting along the interstate. (Jake King/DRC)