Northside resident Victor Flores worries about how dark his neighborhood can get. The only streetlight on Northwest 27th Street sits in front of his home. When it stops illuminating the quiet street from time to time, the whole neighborhood goes dark.
To combat it, Flores decided to keep up his Christmas lights yearlong.
“It’s kind of cheesy, but we just want to have some extra lighting,” he said.
The bright red, green and yellow lights illuminate his driveway and sidewalk. Flores’ home is the only one on the street that can be fully seen at night, shining brightly.
For the past couple months, that streetlight in front of his home was out again, Flores said. He came home one night and noticed it had been replaced with an LED light.
For new street light maintenance requests, the city’s transportation and public works department prioritizes based on request and when each is submitted, Clint Hoover, engineering manager with the department, said.
While the streetlight closest to his house burns brightly now, his Northside neighborhood is still mostly shrouded in darkness. Flores remains concerned for his safety.
Flores and other Northside residents said broken streetlights are common to their neighborhood. Although the city is currently updating 871 streetlights to LED lighting in Northside, residents said they haven’t seen the effects.
Elsewhere in Northside, the streetlight in front of Sandra Rodriguez’ home has been broken since May.
Rodriguez has been living on Northwest 26th Street in Northside for 11 years. This was the first time she’s experienced a broken street light, and the process to repair it was frustrating, she said.
She put in a report with the city in June after a month of it not working. It will take about three weeks to fix the streetlight, city employees told Rodriguez. A city worker came to fix it in July, she added.
Fort Worth residents can report dangerous street conditions, potholes, traffic sign malfunctions, damaged street lights or traffic by calling customer service at 817-392-1234. They can also submit a report by using the myFW app.
Even though the city fixed the light within a 60-day time frame, Reyes said the delay put her family and neighbors at higher risk of being victims of crime.
“Nobody had done anything, and this is a dangerous street,” Rodriguez said in Spanish. “It gets very dark at night. My neighbors have been robbed. People enter through their yard.”
Community group shares frustration
Lighting is key to crime prevention, community members said at a neighborhood meeting of the crime-prevention group Comunidad 27. The group has been speaking out about issues that affect Northside since its founding in 2015.
On June 28, the group held its first nightly potluck meeting at organizer Maria Hurtado’s home on Northwest 27th Street. This was the group’s first meeting after a two-year pause because of the COVID-19 pandemic.
Ten residents sat out back in Hurtado’s bold colored patio on the rustic furnishings, with plates of different foods on the side table. The patio had been remodeled by her husband, Rosario Hurtado, to resemble a traditional Mexican design as an homage to their home country.
Hurtado and her family moved to Northside Fort Worth 38 years ago.
The residents formed a circle, caught up with one another and shared laughs. Shortly after, they began discussing problems they had recently seen throughout their neighborhood: trash in the streets, loud noise, street racing and poor street lighting.
Hurtado discussed the recurring vandalism she’s heard her neighbors experience because of the poor lighting along the streets of Northside.
She shared her overall frustration with the city of Fort Worth. Officials don’t pay enough attention to Northside, she said in Spanish.
With scarce street lighting in her neighborhood, Hurtado asks her neighbors to turn on their own porch lights to help with illuminating their street.
“If people turned on their house lights, that would be a change,” she said in Spanish.
Breakdown of streetlight maintenance
The city’s transportation and public works department has nine crews addressing streetlight maintenance. The number of crews affect how quickly the department can respond to maintenance requests, Brandon Callicoat, transportation management division superintendent with the department, said.
The department breaks the city into zones with one crew assigned per zone. There are additional crews at work for emergencies or when something gets knocked down, Callicoat said. To ensure streetlights are working, the crews do multiple night drives in areas from time to time, he added.
With every streetlight in the city, there are requirements that street lights have to follow in accordance with the Transportation Engineer Manual, Hoover said.
According to the transportation and public works department’s Transportation Engineering Manual, neighborhood streetlights on residential and local streets shall be installed:
o At all intersections.
o At the end of all culs-de-sac and dead-end streets longer than 200 feet.
o At all significant changes in direction of the roadway, defined as those where, when standing in the center of the roadway at one street light, you cannot see the next street light due to horizontal or vertical changes in the roadway.
o As necessary to achieve an approximate spacing between lights of 300 feet, except along schools, city parks, libraries, and community centers where the spacing will be reduced to 200 feet.
On May 17, 2021, the city signed an agreement with contractor Bean Electrical Inc to start converting older streetlights in Northside and east Fort Worth to LEDs. The contractor was hired to provide management, assessments and construction services for streetlight installations/repairs and LED conversions in Northside for the city, according to the contract.
The city council authorized about $1.3 million for an initial two-year term for both of those areas. They also provided one-year options to renew each for about $669,000. That agreement serves as part of a bigger 2018 bond LED project with Bean Electrical Inc to upgrade streetlights in four areas in the city.
“This bond project is driven by the contractor, they have their own crews, and they know the time frame,” Hoover said.
The city started replacing bulbs in Area 2 and Area 3 first because one contractor is serving both areas. Area 1 and Area 4 are slated to come next.
A map obtained by the Fort Worth Report shows the latest LED streetlight tracking in the month of July in the area of Northside carved out by the department.
The green circles show where the contractor has replaced and verified the light replacement, Hoover said. The blue circles indicate that the contractor replaced the light, but they have not sent a project manager to do a monthly inspection, he added.
The white dots in the rest of the red area are those that have not been replaced. There are currently 830 streetlights pending replacement in Northside.
Despite the city’s efforts to improve street lighting, Flores hopes the improvements begin reflecting across more parts of Northside.
“I’ve been seeing extra people on the streets, and they’re just looking shady,” he said. “So when that light’s out, you can’t really see who they are. We’ve lived here 24 years, and so we pretty much know who lives on our block.”
David Moreno is a multimedia fellow for the Fort Worth Report. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter. At the Fort Worth Report, news decisions are made independently of our board members and financial supporters. Read more about our editorial independence policy here.