Dayton’s U.S. 35 underpasses to get $280K lighting upgrades for safety

Some dark and uninviting underpasses in Dayton are about to get a lot brighter and more colorful.

The city of Dayton has hired a company to install LED lights at the Edwin C. Moses Boulevard, Perry Street, Ludlow Street and Wayne Avenue underpasses for U.S. 35.

The lights, which will be white on the road and blue on the sidewalks, are intended to improve aesthetics and motorist and pedestrian safety in areas that some people have been reluctant to travel at night.

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“Pedestrian lighting can generally improve the perception of safety as well as the actual safety of pedestrians by improving their visibility to motorists,” said Ana Ramirez, director of long-range planning and engineering with the Miami Valley Regional Planning Commission, which is funding the project.

The Dayton City Commission approved a roughly $280,000 contract with Reese Electric for the underpass project last week.

The work will include lighting enhancements for sidewalks and back walls of the four underpasses between Edwin C. Moses and Wayne Avenue, the city said.

This is the second phase of underpass lighting for U.S. 35. The first phase, in 2012, added new lights to the U.S. 35 underpasses at South Main Street, South Patterson Boulevard and South Jefferson Street.

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“We wanted to make this a better experience at night for pedestrians and motorists,” said Keith Steeber, city of Dayton engineer.

The underpass project creates a better visual connection and travel experience for pedestrians and motorists and creates an evening landmark, according to transportation recommendations from the Greater Downtown Dayton Plan.

High-pressure sodium technology, which put out a yellow light, will be replaced with bright white LED lights on the street side and blue LED lights on the sidewalk side, Steeber said.

The pedestrian parts right now don’t really have any light except ambient light, and the underpasses will have more and significantly brighter lights, he said.

The city has tried to become more bicycle and pedestrian friendly, but U.S. 35 is a large barrier separating the Oregon District and downtown from South Park and other areas to the south.

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Some South Park residents at least as far back as 2007 have called for better lighting at the Wayne Avenue highway underpass.

Lighting improvements can make a big difference in how safe people feel, Steeber said.

U.S. 35 underpasses in Dayton have been used as hangouts and sleeping places for the homeless and panhandlers. Years ago, police had to evict homeless people living under highway on Perry and Ludlow streets.

Lighting is especially important under freeway interchanges with large footprints that create tunnel like conditions for pedestrians and or complicated intersections that are difficult for pedestrians to navigate, said Ramirez, with MVRPC.

The underpass project is expected to be completed in late summer or early fall.

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