Brighter nights ahead for Del Ray?

Brighter nights ahead for Del Ray?

Maybe, just maybe, that evening stroll for a cold treat at the Dairy Godmother next summer will be more inviting than ever before well lit and eco-friendly.

Recently, a Del Ray community group published a plan to introduce solar-powered pedestrian lights along a busy four-block section of Mt. Vernon Avenue with the intention of expanding the solar lighting a further 16 blocks.

The new, environmentally friendly lights would address “a long-standing need for better pedestrian lighting on Mt. Vernon Avenue,” the report stated, creating a safer, more appealing retail environment along the street.

The price tag for the 32-light pilot project is an estimated $274,000, according to the report. The plan, though, hinges on getting federal funds to carry out the work.

Rep. Jim Moran (D-8) has gotten behind the idea and included the pilot project in his list of items for funding with the transportation and urban development appropriations bill, according to his office.

“We submitted our projects last week and we should know by this summer if [the program] gets in the funding bill,” said Austin Durrer, Moran’s chief of staff. 

“It would all be federal money,” said Pat Miller, a co-chair of the planning committee.

The initial foray into solar lights accommodates for trees along the avenue by proposing a mix of pole-mounted and building-mounted lamps using long-lasting LEDs. 

The bulbs can typically last for more than 20 years, according to manufacturers, and the only residual costs for the solar lights are replacement batteries to store energy. Estimates show most expenses relating to installation of the units, which, compared to traditional streetlights, are much less demanding to add to the landscape. 

“It doesn’t cost anything once we get them put in and established,” Miller said. “There’s no monthly fee for electricity and stuff like that. That’s great.”

Currently, the city spends close to $1,000 a month to power its 78 streetlights in Del Ray, the report stated.

Under the pilot project, the 32 units would be added along both sides of Mt. Vernon Avenue between Windsor and Uhler avenues.

For those involved in the brainstorming process, which took root with the passage of the neighborhood’s Small Area Plan of 2005, the desire to run with the idea must remain tempered at present.

“The only thing is, people would like to see it all up and down the avenue, not just in the four-block area,” Miller said. “To keep it in the $300,000 range for the grant, we had to limit it to the four-block area.”

Durrer said the fate of the funding will likely be decided this summer and, if accepted, finalized in the fall. Officials said the project could begin in about a year if federal money is secured.