Chicago’s streetlights are set for an energy efficient makeover.

CHICAGO – The Chicago Infrastructure Trust is soliciting private partners to overhaul Chicago’s and the Chicago Park District’s outdoor public lighting systems.

The trust launched the first part of a request for qualifications and proposals process on Monday. Submissions are due by May 20. It follows a request for information process launched last September.

The trust will use responses from the RFQ to craft the final RFP. The trust, working with the city and park district, hopes to select a team by November or December.

The aim of the Chicago Smart Lighting Project is to upgrade more than 270,000 of the city’s street, alley and park lights from high pressure sodium lamps to more reliable and higher-quality lighting over the next four years. The city would also be able to monitor outages -- which it currently relies on the public to report -- through a centralized lighting management system and would use the system to expand the city’s fiber optic network.

“New lights will provide more reliable and improved nighttime visibility, giving communities a greater sense of safety,” Mayor Rahm Emanuel said in a statement that described the project as one of the largest municipal lighting modernization programs nationally.

The trust is seeking to leverage future cost savings resulting from the conversion to LED technology because the new lights will consume 50-75% less electricity than HPS lights. The financing could also leverage new revenue sources not cited in the documents.

“This project also presents an opportunity for Chicago to leverage the light grid as a platform for connected technologies,” the documents say.

The project financing will be procured separately and is not part of the RFQ/RFP launched Monday.

“The project is not intended to lead to the privatization of the City’s or Parks’ operation and/or maintenance of Chicago’s outdoor lighting systems,” documents say.

The project will initially impact about 85% of Chicago’s outdoor light fixtures, with conversion of the remaining 15% – which involve more costly ornamental fixtures – deferred depending on funding availability. The city manages 218,800 streetlight fixtures, 72,400 alley light fixtures, and 26,700 viaduct fixtures. About 18,577 fixtures separately operated by the parks would be included in the project.

The project also includes some targeted lighting infrastructure repairs.

The project is the first pursued by an overhauled board led by city Treasurer Kurt Summers and the trust’s new executive director, Leslie Darling, although the prior trust leadership had begun exploring the project early last year.

Emanuel, frustrated with the slow pace of accomplishments, overhauled the trust’s board and leadership in July. He originally launched the trust as a new financing arm with grand plans to undertake “transformative” infrastructure projects without burdening the city's balance sheet and tax base.

The trust in 2014 closed on a $13 million private placement, off the city's balance sheet, to fund energy retrofits for 60 city buildings. The trust was forced to scale back the deal's size by more than half and alter other terms to reduce investors' risks. The trust first talked about doing $200 million in retrofit projects in various stages.

The trust also brokered a $32.5 million deal that closed last year with four telecommunications companies to finance the upgrade of wireless phone service in the Chicago Transit Authority's subway system to a 4G network.

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