Maui will try yellow street lights
The bulbs should help migrating birds and visibility on Haleakala
WAILUKU » Maui County public works officials plan to install low-pressure sodium light bulbs in four separate street areas on the Valley Isle as a demonstration project to study the effects of reduced glare on the night sky and crime prevention.
Some Upcountry people, including astronomers at the 10,000-foot summit of Haleakala, have supported a bill that would convert all high-pressure sodium street lights on Maui to low-pressure ones.
Astronomers said the conversion would enhance the visibility of the night sky and help to preserve the views into space for Maui's $140 million observatory industry on Haleakala.
A study last year noted that visibility was 20 percent to 30 percent brighter than natural night lights on the urban side of Haleakala, reducing the ability of astronomers to see faint stars.
Some wildlife advocates say low-sodium lights would also help to prevent turtles and seabirds from being disoriented during their migration.
Maui police are worried low-pressure sodium lights, which appear to cast a yellow rather than white light, will make law enforcement more difficult and increase the likelihood of traffic accidents.
Police Capt. Milton Matsuoka said the low-pressure sodium lights tend to degrade colors and reduce the sight distance.
"It would be harder to identify someone," Matsuoka said.
Council Public Works Chairman Joseph Pontanilla said the demonstration project will give residents the opportunity to compare the effects of the different lights and to comment on the changes.
"It's going to give them the opportunity to see how these things are and give testimony," he said. "What I'm looking for is feedback."
County Public Works Director Milton Arakawa said installation of two to three street lights including fixtures at each of the four locations will cost about $8,000 to $12,000.
The areas include Kapunakea Street near Front Street in Lahaina, Papa Avenue from Waikala Street to Pohai Street in Kahului, South Kihei Road between Waiohuli Street and Welakahao Road in South Maui, and Iolani Street makai of Pukalani Street in Pukalani.
Arakawa said the demonstration project is scheduled to start in February and end in July.
The county cost of switching all the streets lights on the Valley Isle would total more than $4 million, Arakawa estimated.
The Big Island, which also has observatories, has had a dark sky lighting ordinance for about 16 years.
Big Island police said the colors are different under sodium lights, but they cannot recall low-pressure sodium lights affecting police work.