Things are looking much brighter on Skinker Boulevard between Forest Park Parkway and Delmar Boulevard, thanks to Washington University in St. Louis’ installation of new pedestrian-scale lighting and improvements to the street lighting.
With a focus on improving the pedestrian experience and enhancing security on the well-traveled street that connects Washington University students, faculty and staff with the Delmar Loop and surrounding neighborhoods, university officials proposed a plan more than two years ago to improve lighting and add emergency phones on Skinker.
With input and support from the City of St. Louis Street Department, local governmental leaders and neighbors, the plan saw the light of day when the university recently installed 103 new pedestrian light standards, six blue-light emergency phones, and closed-circuit security cameras on Skinker.
The new pedestrian street lamps on the west side of Skinker were turned on in late December and were closely followed by east side lighting on Jan. 30. The blue-light phones, three on each side of Skinker, allow anyone direct access to the City of St. Louis Police Department in an emergency.
At the same time the pedestrian light standards were being installed on Skinker, the City of St. Louis Street Department helped improve the existing cobra head street lighting.
Based on the university’s recommendations, the city added two additional cobra poles, increasing the total to 24 poles, and relocated four of the existing poles to establish a more evenly distributed light level.
The university upgraded the cobra light bulbs by removing the high-pressure sodium bulbs and replacing them with the more efficient light-emitting diode (LED) bulbs.
Washington University will maintain the pedestrian lamps and St. Louis City will maintain the street lights and pay the electricity costs for all the lights. The electrical savings from the new efficient LED light bulbs will offset the costs of the additional pedestrian lamps.
“The project recognizes the need to bring the lighting along this stretch of Skinker to industry standards for both pedestrians and vehicles,” said Jamie Kolker, assistant vice chancellor for campus planning and director of capital projects.
Lamps complement historic neighborhood
In addition to working closely with the street department, the university sought input from the Skinker-DeBaliviere neighborhood residents and Alderman Lyda Krewson in the planning and selection of the lighting.
“We were pleased to work with many community stakeholders on this improvement,” said Cheryl Adelstein, director of community relations and local government affairs. “Neighborhood input was critical to the final design of the project.”
Kolker said the university took into consideration two key factors when selecting the pedestrian street lamps: maintaining the look and feel of the historic neighborhood and minimizing light pollution onto nearby properties.
The street lamps, which are on 10-foot-tall poles spaced at 35-feet intervals, are oriented downward to illuminate the sidewalks, with minimal scattered light. Shields also were installed to deflect light.
In August 2014, the university invited neighborhood residents to a lighting demonstration on two consecutive nights to display the selected fixture and proposed light levels. Based on general community acceptance, construction began in October 2014.
“The state-of-the-art LED fixtures to light the street and pedestrian fixtures added along the sidewalks resulted from an extensive design process that mocked up and reviewed numerous options,” Kolker said.
“We wanted to ensure the fixture would be energy efficient, provide effective and glare-free nighttime illumination, and be an attractive complement to the sensitive historic neighborhood streetscape environment during the day,” Kolker said.
The lighting designer was St. Louis-based Randy Burkett Lighting Design, landscape architect was DTLS Landscape Studio, and the major contractors were local firms Kozeny-Wagner, Inc. and Gerstner Electric, Inc.