Washington University Invests in Skinker Pedestrian Brightway

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One hundred and four sidewalk lamps will now light both sides of Skinker Boulevard between Forest Park Parkway and Delmar Boulevard—something that planners hope will increase safety along the corridor that connects Washington University to the Delmar Loop and area neighborhoods.

The pedestrian “brightway” comes as part of a bevy of upgrades initiated by Washington University that includes installing closed-circuit security cameras, “blue light” emergency phones, and two additional overhead street lamps. All 22 of the existing overhead street lamps have been retrofitted for efficiency and brightness improvements as well.

Crews finished work on and lit—for the first time—the sidewalk lamps on the east side of Skinker Boulevard in late January. Sitting on 10-feet poles, identical lamps spaced at 35-feet intervals on the street’s west side have been lit since New Year’s Eve. Although work continues on the cameras and emergency phones, completion of the brightway takes the project into its final phase.

Alderwoman Lyda Krewson, whose 28th Ward encompasses the area, and Cheryl Adelstein, Director of Community Relations for Washington University, both report receiving positive feedback about the additional lighting from neighborhood residents. More telling, Adelstein said, was that she has yet to receive any complaints.

The university’s collaboration with residents in the nearby Parkview Gardens and Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhoods may be contributing to the one-sided response. University officials, for example, presented initial plans to the Security Committee of the Skinker-DeBaliviere Community Council in May 2014.

“It’s an improvement for the neighborhood for sure,” said Liz Pund, the Executive Director of the Skinker-DeBaliviere Community Council. “It definitely makes for a more welcoming, walkable sidewalk.”

The project grew out of safety concerns over what Adelstein described as an unusually dark route that failed to meet lighting standards set forth by the Illuminating Engineering Society. The “scale of students and general pedestrians that move” along Skinker Boulevard made the upgrades a priority for the university, Adelstein explained.

Tim Smith, the lead barista at Kayak’s Coffee on Skinker Boulevard, said that he has noticed the new lighting while riding his bike and hopes the added brightness will help keep the area safe.

From an aesthetic standpoint, Smith agreed with Pund. “It looks real nice,” he said.

The project also offers the promise of better connecting the Delmar Loop business district with MetroLink. Just four tenths of a mile from Delmar Boulevard, the Skinker MetroLink Station sits at the south end of the brightway. Trekking from there to Loop businesses west of Skinker Boulevard runs approximately the same distance as from the Delmar Loop MetroLink Station.

Going forward, Washington University will maintain the sidewalk lamps while the City of St. Louis will maintain the street lamps and pay for all lamps’ electricity. Efficiencies gained from transitioning the street lamps from high-pressure sodium to LED will keep electricity consumption flat, even with the hundred-plus additional fixtures, Adelstein said.

Although no plans for additional brightways exist at this time, Adelstein noted that the upgrades on Skinker Boulevard complement similar lighting improvements on Enright Avenue behind the university’s mixed-use Lofts development in the Parkview Gardens Neighborhood.

“The university likes the idea of brightways,” she said.

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  • Mike F

    Thank you, Washington University. I appreciate the fact that the they didn’t go with the typical sodium vapor lamp the City uses on their cobra heads*. The sodium vapor is a sickly, wan light, and it does not produce the true colors of vehicles, etc., whereas the blue/white light is much more accurate in illuminating the surroundings. The fixtures are butt-ugly though, and remind me of the equally ugly fixtures MODOT used in the 64 redo. Besides, a better fixture would have included a shade to direct the light onto the sidewalk.

  • rgbose

    A welcome enhancement! The west side of Skinker was really dark. It’d be great to add more like this to bus stops and other dark walkable avenues like Union. This project cost about $2M. Hopefully we can get more projects like this that enhance places, quality of life, and add value instead of highway interchanges.

    • Yojimbo


  • JZ71

    “I remember when lighting was so bright downtown and on major streets it was almost bright as day.” And that, sir, is/was the problem – it’s called light pollution! You need enough light to (barely?) see the surroundings, not enough light to do surgery. I agree, this stretch was fairly dark. I’ve yet to see the “improvements, but I’m afraid that it’s gone to the other exterme, especially with the “traditional” luminaires, with way too much light going sideways, onto and into adjacent properties. What the city really needs to do is to remove every other street light, here and elsewhere, and cut the overall lighting level (and energy consumption) by half. IF it’s uniform, it’ll still be safe(r), it just won’t be such a glare bomb! http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Light_pollution and http://www.darksky.org/light-pollution-topics/light-pollution-matters

  • Imran

    I am currently working on a project to add pedestrian lighting on Taylor and Boyle avenues near the cathedral in the CWE and the City is requiring us (and any new lighting project) to use LED fixtures. From what I have been told they are planning to switch all street lights to LED by 2016. As a pedestrian, I like the atmosphere created by the orange glow of sodium vapor lights. Hoping to find something close to it in LED fixtures.

    • rgbose

      I don’t like when the sodium ones start buzzing.

      • Imran

        Thanks for the input guys. Trying our best to avoid harsh blue/white lights. Gotta strike the right balance between safety and aesthetics.

    • STLExplorer

      LED lamps are available in a wide variety of color temperatures – I’m sure you can find a nice warm option. Sounds like a great project!

    • Tysalpha

      There are residential type LED bulbs with a color temperature of 2200 Kelvin, which while not as orange as the sodium lamps, is more yellow than incandescent. It’s more the color of the “vintage” Edison bulbs.
      Basically a 2700K LED should be the same color as a 60W incandescent. 3000K would be the same as a halogen. So anything below 2700 should appear “warmer”.
      That being said… human night vision peaks in acuity around 5000K. That’s where we’d get the best visibility-per-watt.

  • Guest

    Well, this is all fine and dandy. But does anyone remember when we had decent lighting in the city? I remember when lighting was so bright downtown and on major streets it was almost bright as day. (There’s even an old commercial they play on the oldies channel AM1430 touting the new million dollar lighting system….1960’s ?)They did away with that lighting around 15, 20 years ago with lighting so poor they had to lower the streetlamps in order to do any good. And now as you drive down the street it’s in the line of sight. I had to laugh when they said the new lighting was “easier on the eyes”. It’s not, and the direct glare is not only irritating, it’s actually dangerous.

    Also, some had a sickly pink glow, but (thankfully) they did away with those. The city has sold out it’s decent (and safer) lighting and has become very poorly lit, IMO, and I figure that was a money saving issue. Bring back the lighting in the city we had a couple decades ago.
    Isn’t there anyone else out there that remembers the great lighting we had?

    • Adam

      “They did away with that lighting around 15, 20 years ago with lighting so poor they had to lower the streetlamps in order to do any good. And now as you drive down the street it’s in the line of sight.”

      i’m confused. you’re saying the cobra-head lamps were lowered? so much so that the fixtures themselves block one’s line-of-sight while driving? i’ve never noticed any of this.

      unfortunately i’m not sure there’s a perfect balance in terms of lighting that’s bright enough/low enough to be useful for pedestrians, and lighting that’s glare-less enough and high enough to be ideal for drivers. considering how badly we need to get people out of their cars and walking around in this city, I lean toward lighting that is more useful for pedestrians. After all, cars have headlights.

      • Guest

        The cobra style street lights have been lowered. Because they do such a lousy job lighting up despite having been lowered, they have added more lighting like the ones in the picture. Those are the ones that I’m referring to as being the problem (for me, but only as a driver). My apologies for not being clear on that. Used to be the cobra style lights did a great job lighting the sidewalks and streets all by themselves.
        I’m with you on the pedestrian vs. car thing, but unfortunately St. Louis is still a city where a car is a necessity for most people. My point is the lighting in the city used to be far superior than what it is today. Ever been to a night game at Busch Stadium? The streets used to be almost as bright as the field. Brighter streets make safer streets (especially for pedestrians)…would you agree?
        And no, I don’t mean the fixtures themselves are in the way. The light source is what I’m referring to. Bothers me a bit (only as a driver…not as a pedestrian)…maybe others not so much or at all. (Lol…no, I don’t have a vision issue).

        • moe

          It use be that we could look up at night and see stars. There is such a thing as light pollution.

          • Adam

            Sure, but in a city with crime issues I’ll accept having to drive out to the boonies to look at the stars over feeling unsafe walking down a dark street.

          • Tysalpha

            That’s what driving to the country is for.

        • Adam

          I would agree. Thanks for clarifying.

          20 years ago I was in high school and didn’t spend all that much time downtown. Sadly, I have no recollection of the lighting in those years.

        • Tysalpha

          The cobra-style lights were designed for mercury vapor (which would have been the 50s/60s)… which has a white light. The sodium lamps that came in style in the 80s and they converted all the cobras to in the 90s are more energy efficient… but that’s about all that’s good about them.

    • matimal

      So…you’re for this then?

      • Guest

        I’m for anything that makes the city attractive, desirable and safe. My observation is simply a personal one in remembering what a wonderful city St. Louis used to be (lol…I’m old enough to remember riding through Gaslight Square in it’s heyday), and the potential it has if things are done properly to return this incredibly beautiful city to it’s former glory. I’m by no means an expert on that, but I do know that preserving as much of the built environment as possible is part of it, as well a proper and fitting new construction (minus the cheap looking infill of which too much infill in this city is)..
        Lighting? I’m no expert on that, either. So, if I’m wrong about “better iighting”, I’m wrong…and I’m not above “eating crow” if I am wrong.

        • matimal

          We can’ t let nostalgia blind us to the real possibilities for the future.

          • Yojimbo

            And we can’t let professional self-interest blind us to the lessons offered by the past.

            A graceful equilibrium is the way forward.

          • matimal

            but those “lessons” aren’t as obvious as you suggest. They worked in the context of their time. We can’t recreate that context. They worked in the context of old cohesive working and middle class neighborhoods. The successful neighborhoods of st. Louis city today are professional class enclaves, not the full-service neighborhoods of old.

  • stldoc

    New lighting is also presently going in on the 4100 and 4200 blocks of Laclede in the CWE http://www.parkcentraldevelopment.org/a-brighter-future-for-the-cwese/