In Oak Park Heights, Drivers Find Downside to LED Stoplights

December 11, 2017 04:55 PM

Driving in winter weather is treacherous enough. Now imagine doing it without being able to see the traffic lights in front of you.

That's a problem some Oak Park Heights drivers have dealt with in the past week due to a rare combination of snowy conditions and LED lights, according to the Minnesota Department of Transportation.


RELATED: How MnDOT Gets Ready for Winter

"Driving snow, wet snow, falling temperatures, and we've got an issue," said MnDOT spokesperson Kent Barnard, describing the perfect storm, so to speak, that led to the issue.

Barnard said MnDOT is replacing old-school incandescent street lights with newer LED lights, and while the LEDs use about 90 percent less energy, there is a catch.

"The older-style incandescent lights did heat up quite a bit, and they would melt off snow and ice that landed on them," Barnard explained. "The newer ones are much cooler. The ice just does not melt off them."

So on rare occasions, Barnard said, snow and ice will make it nearly impossible for drivers to see the signals. He said MnDOT is looking for a long-term solution.

RELATED: KSTP Traffic Round-Up: Slick Roads in the Metro Double Commute Times, Delay Public Transit

In the meantime, however, crews will either brush off the wintry mix – like they did last week in Oak Park Heights – or they'll blow it off using compressed air.

As for drivers, Barnard said should they ever find themselves in a situation where they can't see the signals at an intersection, they should treat it like a four-way stop.


Josh Rosenthal

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