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Albany's downtown area will be a little brighter now that crews have finished installing new lights overhead and alongside city streets.

The light project is a part of the city's downtown streetscape project, paid for through funding approved by the Central Albany Revitalization Area Advisory Board. It covers a total of 176 lights installed on Second and Third avenues and down both Lyon and Ellsworth streets.

Perhaps the most visual difference are 14 so-called "catenary" lights, lamps suspended above the center of the street on the downtown blocks of Second and Third avenues.

"Catenary" is defined as a curve formed by a wire, rope or chain hanging freely from two points that are not in the same vertical line.

Albany's catenary lights were part of a plan put together by Crandall Arambula, an urban design firm in Portland that worked with the CARA board on the streetscape back in fall 2015. They're meant to hearken back to Albany in the early part of the last century, when lights of a similar style swung over downtown roadways. 

Members of the CARA board voted down the light design initially, said Staci Belcastro, city engineer. That was because the first proposal involved multiple strands of wire going across each block, and staff and fire department personnel were both worried about ladder trucks.

"It was like a ceiling of lights," she said.

Albany Fire Chief John Bradner said he hadn't gone to see the finished setup yet himself but figured one strand of wire shouldn't be hard for his crews to navigate.

"We can work around one line. I can put a ladder on either side of the one line," he said.

Belcastro said no complications are anticipated with tall floats that make their way downtown for the annual Veterans Day parade, either.

The 14 catenary lights cost $4,700 each. Their wires are attached to special banner poles, one on each side of the street, which were $8,800 each. That puts the total cost for that particular project at $312,200, Belcastro said.

The city also paid $224,000 for the design and installation of the electrical wiring system, she said. The cost is spread across all of the lighting improvements in the streetscape, the total for which is $1,293,200.

Installation of so-called "acorn lights" line Ellsworth and Lyon streets also has been completed. Their poles have hooks for banners or hanging flower baskets, items the Albany Downtown Association is looking to cover.

Some of the various new lights need concrete and finishing work around their bases, but otherwise, the lighting section of the streetscape is finished, Belcastro said.

CARA received a loan from the state for the whole $8.5 million streetscape project, which is being completed in two phases. 

The lights are part of the second and final phase, which also involves curbs, sidewalks and water lines. When that's finished, the city will redo all the asphalt on Second and Third avenues where the sidewalk work was completed, and down Lyon and Ellsworth streets from First to Eighth Avenue.


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