CBS46 finds out why Atlanta expressways are still in the dark - CBS46 News

CBS46 finds out why Atlanta expressways are still in the dark

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ATLANTA (CBS46) -

Seven long years after the recession and the City of Atlanta is still feeling the pinch. If you take a nighttime drive down the expressway -- any expressway inside the Atlanta city limits -- you won't see many of the overhead lights. That is because many of those lights are off. Driving down the Buford Spring Connector is like driving down a Coweta County country road. It's the aftermath of a decision made at a time the city was cutting funding in every place it could.

In 2009, at the end of Mayor Shirley Franklin's administration, the mayor and the city council made the decision to cancel its service contract with Georgia Power. Here's the problem: the City of Atlanta owns the expressway lights inside the city limits, but only Georgia Power has the resources to maintain them. One of the biggest issues is that the city doesn't have service trucks with bucket lifts tall enough to change the bulbs.

In 2009, a few months after the city took over the maintenance contract, CBS46 received complaints from viewers that many of the expressway lights were being left on 24 hours a day. One by one, the lights started burning out. From that point on it only got worse. Copper thieves began ripping out wiring at the base of the light posts.

In December 2013, Atlanta's public works commissioner Richard Mendoza announced a plan to restore the expressway lighting, but the damage was already done.

"We were not able to keep up with the required maintenance to the point that fifty percent of the lights were out," Mendoza explained.

Mendoza estimated the repair bill at $1 million. But it's a figure that continues to rise. Six months after Street Smart's story, the city made progress, restoring some of the lights but without service trucks tall enough to replace the bulbs, the City was forced to renew its contract with Georgia Power.

Street Smart contacted Georgia Power officials who explained that the damage is more extensive than originally believed. Atlanta public works now estimates the repair bill at $1.2 million.

The goal was to have all the lights on by the end of 2014. The City says 75 percent of the lights are working again. Jenna Garland, Mayor Kasim Reed's press secretary, says the city is now on pace to complete all repairs by Spring 2015.

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