The Story Behind The PLA
For decades, Detroit’s streetlights were a sign of the city’s struggles, an important city service that was in increasingly serious disrepair and that led to increasing concerns from residents. The streetlighting system was not only a national embarrassment, it was a safety issue for its citizens. At least 40% of the lights in our city did not work. Whether because of copper theft, bulb outages, vandalism, obsolete technology, the lack of repair staff or the lack of money to pay for repairs, our streets were dark, our residents felt unsafe and our city needed to do something.
Following a bipartisan effort in the Michigan Legislature, then-Gov. Rick Snyder signed a bill in December 2012 that allowed lighting authorities to be created in Michigan cities, providing Detroit a vehicle to secure the funds needed to bring Detroiters the street-lighting system they deserve. The following February, the Public Lighting Authority was created to develop and implement a plan to create a new system that would work well into the future.
The PLA is an entity separate from the City of Detroit and run by a board comprised of five Detroit residents. It began work in the neighborhoods in February 2014, and in less than three years, the PLA completed a task that many thought they’d never see. Today, all 139 square miles of Detroit are completely relit, with 65,000 new streetlights up and shining. The city used state-of-the-art LED lighting system with quality and safety in mind, meaning that Detroit’s lighting system went from national laughingstock to national leader. On top of all this, the PLA completed the project on time and under budget.
With construction completed, the PLA set out on a new mission to maintain the streetlights in Detroit and to ensure that the new lights stay on and that residents’ concerns are quickly addressed. At any given time in the city, at least 99.5 percent are on.
We are proud that the work of our dedicated staff and contractors has succeeded in placing Detroit in the national spotlight as an example of modern lighting excellence. Our
plan is to continue to work alongside Detroit-based and minority contractors to carry out our mission, provide outstanding customer service and to continue to shine light on our city for years to come.