RIDOT hopes to take responsibility for streetlights along state roads in communities


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) ─ The Rhode Island Department of Transportation (RIDOT) is offering to assume responsibility for local streetlights located along state roads.

The offer, according to RIDOT, “corrects a decades old legacy issue of uncertainty about which public entity is responsible for lights on state roads that are within city or town borders.”

RIDOT is currently in the process of converting its own lights from high-pressure sodium to LED, and began looking into the cost of assimilating the 14,000 street lights installed by state municipalities in 2019.

“Allowing RIDOT to assume responsibility for streetlights on state roads in our 39 cities and towns is a smart move for public safety, the environment and municipalities,” Gov. Dan McKee said. “Well-maintained and properly serviced LED streetlights illuminate roadways for drivers, pedestrians, and bicyclists, and are a cost-efficient way to transition to a low carbon economy.”

“RIDOT’s initiative also allows municipalities to save money on streetlight maintenance that they can allocate elsewhere,” he continued.

Once the state-owned lights are fully converted, RIDOT estimates it will save $865,000 annually. Those savings, according to the state agency, could then be put toward maintaining the streetlights in municipalities, which will cost an estimated $845,000 annually, provided the municipalities first convert them to LED.

“Once we own these lights, we can make sure they are properly maintained and serviced which ensures that our roadways are well lit and safe for the travelling public,” RIDOT Director Peter Alviti wrote in a letter to the state’s 39 cities and towns.

In order for RIDOT to assume responsibility for a municipality’s streetlights, they must meet certain requirements:

  • The municipality must have purchased the streetlights from Narragansett Electric (National Grid).
  • The lights must have been converted to LED at the cost of the municipality.
  • Ownership must be converted to RIDOT free of cost.
  • Any existing attachment agreements must be assigned to RIDOT.
  • If the municipality has any third-party agreements for maintenance and upkeep, RIDOT will not assume those.
  • Lights must be free of any and all encumbrances.
  • RIDOT will not assume responsibility for floodlights serving property not owned by RIDOT.
  • All streetlights must be inspected to ensure they are in good working order.
  • Each city or town council must approve the transfer.

RIDOT hopes the project will not only reduce the state’s carbon footprint, but that it will also eliminate “a hodgepodge of ownership and maintenance issues.”

“What we had was a longstanding issue with the wrong people paying the wrong bills for the wrong lights,” he explained. “Now we will be able to straighten it out.”

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