While Fort Worth glows in the success of TCU football, the city’s streetlights aren’t — despite their purple appearance. 

That’s right, those purple streetlights you may have seen lighting up your neighborhood in a violet hue might evoke thoughts of TCU —or a well rehearsed number out of the musical Cats — but they’re not due to any sports teams’ success. 

Instead, they can be attributed to a manufacturer’s defect that is affecting other LED streetlights across the country, according to a report from Business Insider. 

From Wisconsin to North Carolina to Maryland, residents have asked the same question:why are my streetlights glowing purple? The answer can be traced to Acuity Brands Lighting, which controls a large share of the LED street lighting market. 

The defect is a result of “Phosphor displacement.” LED’s are able to illuminate in a range of colors. Over time, as the lights degrade, the color of the lights can shift unexpectedly. The defect can cause the lights to change to a range of hues, a light blue to a deep violet. 

“The lighting is typically still at a high enough level to create visibility,” said Martin Phillips, assistant director for transportation management. 

The manufacturer agreed to replace the streetlights at no cost to the city. Fort Worth’s Transportation and Public Works Department is working to identify the scope of the problem, said Phillips. 

“The referenced blue light effect occurred in a small percentage of AEL fixtures with components that have not been sold for several years,” Cathy Lewandowski, a spokesperson for Acuity Brands said in a statement. “As always, we stand behind the quality of our products, and we have been proactively working with customers who have experienced the issue to address any concerns.”

Despite the origins of the purple lights, TCU said it comes at a good time. 

“Fort Worth looks good in purple. Let’s keep the purple street lights in honor of DFW’s Big12 team and all of our incredible student athletes! The timing is perfect as we kick off our 150th anniversary in January 2023,” Holly Ellman, a TCU spokesperson, said in a statement. 

The lights are a part of the city’s efforts to replace older bulbs with LED lights. The city has changed about 60% of the city’s bulbs to LEDS, Phillips said. The city started to transition their old lights to LED bulbs because they are more energy efficient and brighter. 

The city signed an agreement with Bean Electrical Inc. to help convert street lights to LEDs in Nov. 2019. The company is responsible for project management, assessments and construction services for LED conversions for the city, according to the contract

The company was also awarded projects for LED conversions in certain parts of the city, including Fort Worth’s Northside

The lights affected by the manufacturer defect can be hard to identify, he added, because they don’t immediately glow purple. 

“It’s not something that will pop up immediately,” Phillips said. 

If you notice a purple streetlight, Phillips urges you to make a report through the MyFW App. You can download the app here

Once you submit a report, the transportation public works department will put it on the list for replacement. The city recently boosted funding to the department to shorten the response time for streetlight replacements. Now, the city should address faulty street lights within 30 days, rather than 60. 

Some streetlights will likely continue to glow purple as TCU football prepares to face Michigan in the Fiesta Bowl.

A TCU spokesman also shared an alternative cause for the changing lights. According to the university, an unidentified Horned Frog said: “That’s no defect. Hypnotoad is definitely behind this.”

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Rachel BehrndtGovernment Accountability Reporter

Rachel Behrndt is a government accountability reporter for the Fort Worth Report in collaboration with KERA. She is a recent graduate of the University of Missouri where she majored in Journalism and Political...