City council approves roadway lighting study on M-51

Published 2:00 pm Tuesday, March 29, 2022

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NILES — The Niles City Council is taking steps to improve evening visibility along a busy section of road.

The council voted unanimously to approve a roadway lighting study on the South 11th Street/M-51 corridor during Monday’s meeting at the Niles Fire Department.

The study will cost the Utilities Department $20,039 and will be paid for using money from the city’s Electric Professional Services Fund. Commonwealth Associates will conduct the study. The Jackson, Michigan-based engineering firm has provided various studies, documents and engineering services to the city over the years.

The study is the city’s latest effort to promote economic development, increase worker safety, upgrade line voltage and to decrease vehicular pole accidents on the busy corridor.

According to a memo from City Administrator Ric Huff, the utilities department’s electric division has been undergrounding and relocating portions of the city’s distribution system along South 11th Street/M-51. As part of the decades-long project, the current roadway lighting will be removed in the process of extracting utility poles. In addition, the city may install decorative lighting for the roadway and sidewalks as the project moves forward.

Because the South 11th Street/M-51 is a state highway, the city is required to seek both the lighting study and approval from the Michigan Department of Transportation before any roadway lighting can be installed. Street lighting is a public service provided by the city and is not an MDOT requirement. According to the memo, the city paid $3,740 per pole/light in April 2021.

Once the study is completed, city officials would then be able to have the lighting model rerun with new parameters, allowing them to adjust heights and spacing for the proposed lighting installation.

“The planning commission has, for a long time, advocated for improving walkability in the city,” said councilman John DiCostanzo. “I think it’s a worthwhile investment and I think, in the long run, South 11th Street will be much more pleasant to walk on in the evenings. … The utility board is a very responsible group of people who were convinced this was the right thing to do and made that recommendation to us.”