Marketplace Scratch Pad

It ain’t easy being green

Scott Jagow Dec 18, 2009

This is sort of a follow-up to yesterday’s discussion about “creative destruction” — new technologies replacing old ones. You know those energy efficient LED traffic lights many cities are using? It turns out their major advantage is also a dangerous problem in the winter time.

From AOL Autos:

The bulbs don’t burn hot enough to melt snow and can become crusted over in a storm — a problem blamed for dozens of accidents and at least one death.

“I’ve never had to put up with this in the past,” said Duane Kassens, a driver from West Bend (Wisconsin) who got into a fender-bender recently because he couldn’t see the lights. “The police officer told me the new lights weren’t melting the snow. How is that safe?”

A lot of communities have switched to LED bulbs because they can save thousands of dollars a month on their power bills. The bulbs last much longer and use 90 percent less energy. Of course, that means they don’t produce heat, and the snow accumulates. From Autoblog:

Municipalities around the country are taking different steps to keep their signals shining brightly in the face of Mother Nature. Crews in St. Paul, Minnesota, use compressed air to keep their lights clean. In Green Bay, Wisconsin, city workers brush the snow off by hand in a labor-intensive process. Until a fix arrives, it is best to take the advice of Dave Hansen, a traffic engineer with the Green Bay Department of Public Works. Treat a blocked signal as if the power is out. “If there’s any question, you err on the side of caution,” says Hansen.

Yeah. Stay home. Here in LA, where there’s never a single snowflake, a non-working traffic light seems to be an invitation for people to barrel through the intersection as if the intersection had vanished completely. In the snow? Forget it.

I guess you can’t think of everything, but it seems like this problem might’ve come up in the testing phase. Back to the drawing board. No one said creative destruction isn’t messy.

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