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Driving You Crazy: Why are so many overhead streetlights at on/off ramps along I-70 from Copper to Denver out?

It's hard to see becasue it is so dark
I-70 Street Light
I-70 streetlight base
Posted at 4:58 AM, May 02, 2023

LAKEWOOD — Shàron from Lakewood writes, “What’s driving you crazy? The majority of the overhead streetlights for the on ramps and off ramps on I-70 eastbound from Copper Mountain to the metro are out. This could cause someone to miss the exits if you do not know where they are as you cannot see them in the dark. I understand that CDOT is short on staff. I contacted CDOT about this but have not seen results yet as I drove this stretch again in the dark. And maybe if they are out there, they can also clean the cameras!”

Like with most things, who takes care of maintenance of something depends on where you are standing. By state statute, lighting within incorporated areas is maintained by the municipality where the lighting is located. Cities frequently include lighting maintenance in agreements with electrical utilities serving their area. CDOT maintains highway lighting at locations on state highways that are outside of incorporated towns and cities.

CDOT tells me their maintenance workers perform regular nighttime inspections to identify what overhead lights might be out and check out problem areas reported by drivers like you. Once an outage is discovered, CDOT electricians troubleshoot the problem light pole to determine the cause of the outage and make necessary repairs at that time. As with anything not working right, some repairs can be fairly straightforward, such as replacing a lamp or photocell that has reached the end of its service life while other repairs can be much more involved like having to replace a breakaway pole knocked over by a vehicle or isolating a ground fault in the underground wiring feed and replacing the bad section.

CDOT tells me their maintenance workers and electricians have been delayed more than normal this past winter as it has been too cold for them to do their troubleshooting and repair work. Most of the wiring for the overhead lighting is placed in underground conduits to protect them and make it easier to repair or replace them without much digging. However, since the conduit are in the ground, they frequently collect water. During this cold winter, CDOT has sections of conduit that have remained frozen.

MORE: Read more traffic issues driving people crazy

The frozen conduits have delayed the ability to pull the wiring out at some locations that have ground faults that have caused the lighting to turn off. The snow and ice have also prevented some of the utility trucks to safely access the poles from the ground which has delayed other repairs. CDOT's policy is to never conduct overhead repairs over live lanes of traffic. Lane closures are necessary to make repairs to streetlightsm which iss tougher to do in the winter than in the summer. As temperatures warm up, the snow and ice will melt and the access to the poles and wires will be restored, allowing the work to resume.

As for the dirty cameras, I’ve seen the maintenance crews out cleaning and working on them from time to time. Like with the overhead lights, the warmer weather will allow them to come out in a bucket truck and squeegee them to crystal clear quality. I, and our viewers sure would appreciate that too.

If you would like to know more about all the requirements CDOT has to follow when installing overhead street lights you can peruse through the 56 pages of the Lighting Design Guidelines for the Colorado Department of Transportation.

Denver7 traffic anchor Jayson Luber says he has been covering Denver-metro traffic since Ben-Hur was driving a chariot. (We believe the actual number is over 25 years.) He's obsessed with letting viewers know what's happening on their drive and the best way to avoid the problems that spring up. Follow him on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram or listen to his Driving You Crazy podcast on iTunes, Stitcher, iHeartRadio, Spotify or Podbean.