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Project Profile: Highway Lighting Replacement, Virginia DOT


LED lighting improves nighttime visibility and safety. A before-and-after comparison shows the difference in lighting.
Source: Credit: Acuity Brands Lighting

Project Name Virginia DOT Highway Lighting Replacement Project
Location State of Virginia
Project Sponsor / Borrower Virginia Department of Transportation
Program Areas Alternative Project DeliveryProject Finance
Value Capture Techniques N/A
Mode Other: Highway Lighting

The Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) is replacing more than 9,600 highway lights with light-emitting diode (LED) products. The project will implement a lighting controls system for all proposed LED fixtures. It includes lights located on limited-access highways and associated interchanges, as well as VDOT-owned park-and-ride lots, rest areas, and weigh stations in the Richmond, Fredericksburg, Hampton Roads, and Northern Virginia districts.

VDOT is funding the lighting upgrade project using the Virginia Energy Management Program’s energy performance contract option, which allows VDOT to finance infrastructure improvements using future energy and operational savings. By reducing energy bills and lowering operations and maintenance costs, the State expects the project to help save $4.6 million by 2036.

Cost As of 2019, the estimated project cost was approximately $17,399,000 (approximately $1,700 per fixture exclusive of memorandum of understanding, owner-contingency, and VDOT’s internal administration and construction engineering/inspection costs).
Funding Sources Virginia Energy Management Program
Project Delivery / Contract Method

Project Bundling
Energy Performance Contracting (EPC)

2018 Virginia Energy Plan (issued October 2018 pursuant to §67-201 of the Code of Virginia): EPC is a budget neutral, cost-effective tool that allows State agencies and publicly owned facilities to reduce their deferred maintenance backlogs without adding any financial burden to the taxpayer. In addition, EPC is an effective mechanism to finance capital improvements using leveraged energy savings to reduce both energy costs and consumption.

Private Partner Trane, Inc.
Project Advisors / Consultants Trane, Inc. (“Trane”)
Lenders N/A
Duration / Status

Trane is currently auditing the lights to determine the correct fixtures (wattage/brightness, type, color temperature, housing color, etc.). VDOT anticipates actual light replacement to begin in August. The project is on schedule, and is expected to be complete by March 2022.

Financial Status/Financial Performance

VDOT has reviewed and concurred with Trane's methodologies for estimating current energy usage, modeled future energy usage, and modeled cash flows during the construction period and 15-year bond amortization period. VDOT budgeted $17,126,000 for the agency’s energy services contractor, Trane Inc., to retrofit 9,627 lighting fixtures to LEDs. VDOT’s team also budgeted $2,273,000 for construction engineering, and inspection, and to address any structural or electrical repair issues not covered by the contract.

Under EPC, contract costs are paid for using funding from the Virginia Energy Leasing Program (VELP) managed by the Department of the Treasury. The VELP enables agencies to obtain consistent and competitive credit terms for financing energy efficiency improvements, providing up-front payment, which is paid back through savings in future energy expenditures. Once approved and finalized, VDOT would be responsible for the lease payments regardless of actual energy savings resulting from the LED Project; however, under the contract, VDOT will have recourse with Trane if savings are insufficient.

  • Lighting Controls System (LCS) - Implementation of an LCS that will allow VDOT to manage the illumination levels more smartly (ability to remotely turn on, off, or dim individual lights, based on operational and safety assessment) at individual fixtures. The LCS will give VDOT future capability to evaluate potential for time-of-night dimming in Park & Rides or on limited access highways.
  • Energy savings and Product Longevity - LED fixtures consume 50 percent or less of the energy consumed by traditional High-Pressure Sodium (HPS) fixtures, thus reducing VDOT's energy expenditures and carbon footprint. In addition, the LED fixtures will improve roadway visibility (due to less backlight and glare) and triple the expected lifetime from five to 15 or more years, thus saving taxpayer dollars;
  • Operations & Maintenance - VDOT’s current fixtures typically must be replaced every five years or sooner. VDOT negotiated with Trane to receive a 15-year manufacturer’s warranty for the fixtures, five years more than the Industry standard of 10 years. VDOT anticipates that the life span will exceed 15 years, as VDOT’s specifications require both the optical elements and the driver to be rated for 100,000 hours, which equates to almost 23 years based on an average annual burn rate of 12 hours per day;
  • Work zones - VDOT will need to close shoulders and travel lanes much less frequently for future re-lamping operations, reducing risk of work zone-related incidents; and
  • Safety - LED fixtures emit a crisper, whiter light with significantly improved Color Rendering Index (CRI), allowing drivers to better distinguish objects at night, including pedestrians, animals, and debris;
  • Reduced Emissions - The project will result in an estimated 8,800-ton reduction in greenhouse gas emissions; and
  • Funding strategy - The State is funding the project through the Virginia Energy Management Program contract, which allows for an option for VDOT to finance infrastructure improvements using future energy and operational savings
Related Links / Articles
Contact Name Harold Caples, PE
Title Assistant State Construction Engineer (State Contract Engineer)
Phone # (804) 786-1630
Project photo.

Before-and-after images show nighttime visibility improvements from LED lights that will save VDOT millions of dollars over their lifetime. (Credit: Acuity Brands Lighting)

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