Going dark: Detroit braces for 'a system-wide failure' of its new streetlights


Mack Avenue before new lights were installed. - STEVE NEAVLING
  • Steve Neavling
  • Mack Avenue before new lights were installed.

Some of Detroit’s neighborhoods could go dark again.

Detroit’s Public Lighting Authority (PLA) filed a federal lawsuit on Monday against the manufacturer of about 20,000 LED lights that are “prematurely dimming and burning out” and are at risk of “a system-wide failure,” The Detroit News first reported.

The PLA is blaming California-based Leotek Electronics USA, which built nearly a third of the city’s 65,000 new streetlights.

An inspection of the lighting system last fall uncovered defective streetlights that were “charred, burned, or cracked,” the PLA’s lawyers wrote in a letter in February.

In a letter to the PLA, the company acknowledged the problems, blaming them on “excessive heat that can burn the lens directly above the LED.”

“We apologize for the problem you have experienced and will work with you to correct the problems,” Leotek administrator Hy Nguyen wrote.

According to the lawsuit, Leotek recently stopped responding to the PLA.

The city spent $185 million to install 65,000 streetlights over the past three years.

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