In the dark, often-rainy heart of winter, a nonfunctioning/malfunctioning streetlight stands out. Right now, West Seattle has more than 20 of them. After a question from a reader, we looked into the current state of streetlight trouble-reporting and repairs. Above is a screengrab from the Seattle City Light streetlight-repair tracking map. Once a streetlight’s been reported, it gets categorized at one of three levels. The most-common type in our area currently, marked by red dots on the map, generally will take a while to fix, the map explains, because: “The streetlight is failing due to issues within the streetlight’s electrical system. … These repairs require engineers to assess and design a solution to fix the streetlight’s electrical system.” Since so many nonfunctioning West Seattle lights are shown in that category, we asked SCL spokesperson Julie Moore to elaborate on what those “issues” tend to include, and whether that means repairs will take months rather than weeks. Here’s her reply:
The most common “issue” is often related to old equipment that needs to be brought up to current standards. As the note on the streetlight tracker says, these kind of fixes require additional time and effort as engineers must assess and design a solution, then it must go through permitting, crew scheduling and construction within the City right-of-way. Another issue that can sometimes prompt this type of solution is wire theft; however, this has not been as prevalent an issue in 2020 as in recent years.
Yes, these “red ticket” repair jobs can take much longer to complete than simple fixes for the reasons described above. Please also be aware that City Light is experiencing significant resource challenges and a growing backlog for certain work, including streetlight repair and new service connections, at this time. Several factors combined created this situation, including a pause in work in response to Governor Inslee’s “Stay Home, Stay Healthy” order earlier this year, other COVID-related impacts to our operations staffing model and vacancies, as well as competing priority projects and unplanned essential work. Depending on the complexity of the project, we estimate timelines for completion are weeks or even months longer than in the pre-COVID world.
You may have noticed the pop-up note when you first visit the streetlight tracker site: Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Seattle City Light is prioritizing essential critical infrastructure work and doing work in a way that minimizes service disruptions to customers. Crew availability is limited to emergency streetlighting repairs, so we apologize if there is a delay with your request.
We will continue to prioritize emergency repairs to address public safety concerns. Our goal is to meet or exceed our customer expectations and it is disappointing when we do not. We are working on near- and long-term improvements to address the backlog and reduce project timelines.
Some repairs can be completed more quickly, so keep reporting nonfunctioning streetlights – check the map first to see if someone has already made a report – click on a dot to see the address and pole # to verify it’s the same one. There are multiple ways to report a problem – this online form, the Find It Fix It app, firstname.lastname@example.org, or 206-684-7056.