The quality of Route 1 light; Racette returning to Cape

November 8, 2013
Electricity for lights along Delaware's highways - like these at the intersection of Route 1 and Cave Neck Road - costs DelDOT more than $1.3 million per year. BY DENNIS FORNEY

Within the course of the next year, the level of lighting on Route 1 between Lewes and Rehoboth will be significantly brighter than it is now. Seeking a safer and friendlier roadway, Delaware’s Department of Transportation will be installing 127 new street lights along the main street for Delaware’s Cape Region.

Walkers and bicyclists will be more visible at night. There will be fewer shadows for them to melt into as they make their way up and down the highway – fewer chances that they will drop out of view – fewer chances to be struck, injured and possibly killed.

Highway lighting is no small notion in Delaware, especially as we continue our inevitable urbanization here along the coast. According to spokespeople for DelDOT, the new lamps will be consistent with other highway lighting in the state. That means the lamps will be 250-watt, high-pressure sodium lights mounted on metal poles at heights of 25 feet or higher. Pinkish-yellowish light.

There may come a day when light-emitting diode fixtures replace the sodium lamps, but that day is not yet here. DelDOT has a pilot location in a parking lot where it is closely monitoring energy use and light distribution. The department is determining where its first road pilot location will be for the LED lights, which are generally considered longer-lasting and more energy efficient than the more traditional street lights.

How about light pollution? DelDOT knows that any highway lighting creates some level of light pollution, but its spokespeople say efforts are made to limit the effects by only lighting areas needing to be lit and by following state law. In 2005, lawmakers modified state code to require that any state-funded outdoor lighting use cutoff fixtures. Cutoff fixtures are like shields over the lamps that point the vast majority of lighting downward. In exact terms, the new code requires that 97.5 percent or more of the lighting be directed below the 90-degree horizontal plane. That means the light goes down and not up. The lamps being proposed for the Route 1 improvements will employ the cutoff fixtures.

Of course, this urbanization and safety come at a cost. In this fiscal year, which ends June 30, 2014, Delaware expects to spend more than $1.3 million statewide for the electricity to power its street lights.

For a busy place like the heavily commercialized coastal highway, the lamps and electricity are one of the least expensive ways to add safety and security.

In Lewes, Board of Public Works General Manager Darrin Gordon said at least 188 conventional street lights have been replaced over the last couple of years with LED lamps.  The replacements were funded through state energy- conservation grants.  Gordon said energy savings from the LED lights allowed the BPW to reduce its electricity charge to the City of Lewes for street lights by almost 10 percent.

Patricia Racette at Cape again

For the second time in a year, international opera star Patricia Racette will be on the stage of Cape Henlopen High School’s performing arts theater. Last year, she came to town as a fundraiser sponsored by Touch of Italy and Prudential Gallo. This year, she takes the stage through the miracle of modern technology. She is starring in the title role of Puccini’s opera “Tosca”, being performed in New York City by the Metropolitan Opera. That performance will be broadcast simultaneously Saturday afternoon in the Cape High theater using high-definition video equipment and a special screen. While Racette is singing her heart out on the stage in New York City, opera-goers in Delaware’s Cape Region can watch her live performance in a big-screen setting without having to travel north to the Big Apple.

The opera at Cape is a joint venture between Cape Henlopen Educational Foundation and Rehoboth Beach Film Society. Check out for more information on the performance.

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