Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.

Mayor Tim Keller announced Friday that Albuquerque will install 500 new street lights by the end of 2021 as part of a city-wide effort to improve public safety in underserved neighborhoods. The area of focus is Albuquerque’s International District, which will receive 150 of those new lights, with many of them operating on solar power. 

Four neighborhoods in the International District —Trumbull Village, South Pedro, La Mesa, and Elder Homestead will have lights installed. For decades these neighborhoods have voiced concerns about public safety due to under-lit streets. Khadija Bottom is a resident and vice president of the district’s neighborhood coalition. She noted that one of the biggest complaints she receives from residents is about lighting in the neighborhood. “This project is a long time coming, and this will help make our residents safer,” Bottom said. “Driving around the neighborhood now makes me smile because our sidewalks are being expanded and now we’re getting these new lights. The Southeast Heights is finally getting upgraded.”

The push for improved lighting in Albuquerque’s older and under-served low-income neighborhoods began 18 months ago when the Keller Administration promised investment in public safety. A transportation tax was overwhelmingly passed in 2019 that provided much of the funding for a public safety project of this scale. This wave of lighting installation in the International District is projected to cost the city $2.1 million. The push for lighting is part of a greater effort by the city to reduce crime and improve safety for vulnerable low-income neighborhoods. Keller said the majority of lights would be installed in higher-density areas with apartment complexes and will help driver, pedestrian and bicyclist safety.

The project also reflects the city’s investment in sustainability by installing lights that are powered by solar electricity. Keller noted that the only obstacle to going completely solar was cost and proximity to other power sources for the lights. All the lights installed will have LED bulbs to cut down on energy consumption.  

Keller said the initiative was the largest lighting upgrade in several decades. Since Keller took office, over $6 million has been invested in revamping Albuquerque’s lighting infrastructure. In February, it was announced that 215 lights would be installed in Old Town and the Westside along Central Ave. all the way to 98th St.

Similar projects to improve lighting dark streets in Downtown and Nob Hill were also announced earlier this year. 

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Justin Schatz is The Paper's daily news reporter. He has reported on New Mexico for KRQE News, Searchlight NM and the Santa Fe Reporter.