COLUMBIA — Residents in neighborhoods along Forum Boulevard had something to look forward to when Columbia’s Water and Light Department began installing streetlights in their area in early September, but they, and other residents along Chapel Hill Road, will have to wait a bit longer.
The streetlight projects have been put on hold while the City Council explores whether more decorative poles might be appropriate for the areas. That decision came after objections to the poles that were being erected arose at the Oct. 1 council meeting.
“There are certain roads that have a more boulevard characteristic about them, and so we want to look into more decorative light fixtures,” said Laura Nauser, Fifth Ward councilwoman. “There’s a very unique characteristic to that area, and we just want to get more information to find street lights that match that.”
The project originally proposed by Water and Light called for 22 streetlights in the landscaped median along Forum Boulevard near Green Meadows Road and 20 lights along the new section of Chapel Hill Road west of Scott Boulevard. The lights were to be spaced about 200 feet apart. The Forum Boulevard project is about one-third complete and was originally scheduled to be completed before winter.
The department recommended full cutoff fixtures for each location. Those fixtures are designed to direct light downward and keep it from spilling into residential neighborhoods. They can, however, create extremely bright light directly below the fixtures and dark spots between.
“For the safety of pedestrians, bicyclists, and motorists, the lights should be touching so there are no dark spots in between,” said Connie Kacprowicz, Water and Light spokeswoman.
Fixtures like those being installed are available in black and gray and cost $1,036 a piece. Water and Light recommends them for lighting major collector or arterial roads that pass through residential neighborhoods.
“The lights are in the budget, but that could change if there’s an adjustment in the type of fixture,” Kacprowicz said. “Depending on the amount of lights that we need, cost could change.”
But the higher price might be worth it, Nauser said. “If you’re going to go to the added expense of making a road look that way, you might as well go to the added expense of making the light fixtures match as well.”
Nauser said she has driven Forum Boulevard for years and never noticed the lack of lighting.
“I guess I was just used to it being dark. I never really thought about it until it was brought to the Water and Light Department’s attention.”
Nauser said she hopes city administrators can reach a decision on the fixtures soon.
“I would think that sometime within the next several months they would start removing the steel lights and begin putting in new fixtures.”
Kacprowicz said she anticipates a meeting of City Manager Bill Watkins, council members and the Water and Light staff. She hopes the issue will be ready for more discussion at the council’s Nov. 5 meeting.