Harrison County

Lights out! Sections of U.S. 49 in Gulfport have gone dark

Streets lights on a stretch of U.S. 49 in Gulfport from Turkey Creek to north of Airport Boulevard, shown on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2016, are not working, leaving motorists in the dark. The Mississippi Department of Transportation maintains lights on this stretch of U.S. 49.
Streets lights on a stretch of U.S. 49 in Gulfport from Turkey Creek to north of Airport Boulevard, shown on Thursday, Dec. 5, 2016, are not working, leaving motorists in the dark. The Mississippi Department of Transportation maintains lights on this stretch of U.S. 49. jcfitzhugh@sunherald.com

Street lights are out along sections of U.S. 49, a heavily traveled north-south highway, but new and better lights are coming south of Interstate 10.

The city has turned over maintenance of street lights from 28th Street north to Turkey Creek to Mississippi Power Co. The power company will be replacing old high-pressure sodium lights with LED lights that are more energy efficient and last longer. Power company spokesman Jeff Shepard said more than 100 lights should be replaced by the end of January.

City Engineer Kris Riemann said Gulfport has entered a $4,000 monthly maintenance contract with Mississippi Power for 664 lights on U.S. 49, Cowan-Lorraine Road and Mississippi 605, U.S. 90, Airport Road and downtown. The agreement was necessary, he said, because the lighting was installed with federal grants and deeded to the city. Mississippi Power already is maintaining lights on other city streets.

Riemann said the city’s total budget for streetlight maintenance and power is $1 million a year. He hopes more areas of U.S. 49 will eventually have LED lights.

“They’re really nice,” he said. “They’re white light and they look really clean.” LED lights cost the city $16 per month, compared with $24 per month for sodium lights, he said. And the LED lights last longer.

Riemann said he traveled U.S. 49 after the Sun Herald called about dark sections of the road, reported by a reader in the Sound Off submission.

The reader said: “There are over 200-plus street lights not working on Highway 49 between Highway 90 and O’Neal Road. Entire intersections and blocks are not lighted.”

A Sun Herald staff member who drove along the stretch of highway Thursday night saw lights were out on a short section of U.S. 49 north of Interstate 10 between Orange Grove Road and O’Neal Road.

Riemann said he plans to have city staff drive the highway, along with other roads in the city, to see how many street lights are out and get lists to the power companies maintaining them so they will be replaced.

Lights around Interstate 10 at U.S. 49, maintained by the Mississippi Department of Transportation, were out because a line was cut during construction, District Engineer Kelly Castleberry said. Those lights have been, or will be, replaced as time permits, he said.

Castleberry said the lighting system has been turned off while those repairs are made. MDOT maintains street lights south of Interstate 10 to Turkey Creek. Lights were also out on 49 between Turkey Creek and Airport Road, the Sun Herald noted Thursday evening.

Riemann said he hopes the MDOT lights on 49 also can eventually be turned over to Mississippi Power for maintenance and replaced with LED lights.

“We are encouraging all of our municipalities in our service area to take advantage of LED lighting in highly utilized areas,” Shepard said.

Photojournalist John Fitzhugh contributed to this report.

Anita Lee: 228-896-2331, @calee99

Sound Off in Action

A Sun Herald reader wrote a Sound Off that said:

“Has anyone noticed the high number of street lights not working on Highway 49?

“There are over 200-plus street lights not working on Highway 49 between Highway 90 and O’Neal Road. Entire intersections and blocks are not lighted.

“This issue has been sent to the 311 City of Gulfport help line and referred to the city of Gulfport mayor’s office.

“Their answer is that it is a state highway and Mississippi Power problem. But it has been months since it was first reported and the issue just gets worse and is not being addressed. Why?”

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