Converting traffic signals to LEDs will save $2 million over a decade

In 2007-08, the City of South Bend upgraded traffic signals at 226 intersections from high-energy incandescent lighting to greener light-emitting diodes (LEDs) – the first city in Indiana to implement a solution on this scale or scope.

The conversion is projected to save the City nearly $2 million in avoided energy and operational costs over the 10-year contract.

But an energy audit of the first two contract years shows that the savings actually exceed guaranteed projections by more than $69,000, according to a recent analysis by Johnson Controls.

The $1.48-million project was funded by a guaranteed performance contract between the City and Johnson Controls, which enabled the improvements without raising taxes or issuing bonds. Based on the terms of the contract, if the savings threshold is not achieved, Johnson Controls will reimburse the difference.

“With the savings, we added crosswalk countdowns to make the city more walkable and uninterruptible power-supply backups at signals to free up police during power outages,” said Gary Gilot, the City of South Bend’s director of public works. “We also installed traffic pre-emption devices near Memorial Hospital, which allows emergency-response vehicles to control traffic signals remotely, saving precious minutes in life-threatening situations.”

Energy reduction from the project is expected to limit the city’s overall carbon footprint. According to the American Forests Association, the reductions in dangerous nitrous oxide and sulfur dioxide levels from this project are equal to what 5,600 trees would consume in one year.

“I am excited and proud that South Bend, with the help of Johnson Controls, has found a fiscally-responsible application for cutting-edge technology to improve something as ordinary as traffic signals,” said Mayor Stephen J. Luecke. “This project delivers layered benefits to our citizens and can serve as a model to other cities in Indiana, our region and beyond.”

Founded in 1885, Johnson Controls, based in Milwaukee, Wis., has been part of the South Bend community since 1905.

Publication Date: 
August 2010
Article Type: 
Innovation in Government