Lights on, lights off: Tucsonan demands city fixes 'pitch black' street
Photo: Video by kgun9.com
CREATED Apr. 30, 2013
TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Taxpayers pay up and expect basic city services in return, but the city of Tucson has left one neighborhood in the dark for years. A neighbor wanted action and called on 9 On Your Side, which found an even darker problem citywide.
“It is absolutely pitch black out here,” said Scott Reiner, describing Old Vail Road south of Valencia Road. “You can't see five feet in front of you.”
A drive down Old Vail at night made it clear: nearly 170 streetlights were out.
“The complaint is I would like the city of Tucson to do their job,” Reiner said. “Come out here and light these poles back up, make it safe for the neighborhoods and make it safe for everybody who wants to do night walking.”
Over the years, Reiner said he's called the city and talked to street crews with no success.
He then called 9 On Your Side, which had covered the dark street before. In 2005, thieves ripped out copper wiring and city crews eventually replaced it.
“Then, it was stolen two months after that,” said Ernie Encinas of the Tucson Department of Transportation. “Completely. Again.”
“We have not come back to put the wire back in because it just keeps on being stolen,” Encinas told 9 On Your Side.
Reporter Kevin Keen asked Encinas, “Is that giving up on this street?”
“No, it's not really giving up on the street,” he answered. “What it comes down to is we have other areas of town that are also being hit and got hit at that same time.”
Those other streets left dark include a stretch of Pantano Road and around where Golf Links meets Aviation Parkway, Encinas said.
Encinas explained those streets just don't see as much car, foot, bicycle and business traffic so they're lower on the priority fix list.
He said there’s not enough funding to replace the stolen wiring citywide and the cost of doing that are rising.
In 2005, TDOT reported it'd cost $105,000 to replace the wiring on Old Vail. Today, with higher copper prices, Encinas said there's a $165,000 price tag.
9 On Your Side asked Encinas if it would be possible to replace wiring to half a dozen lights around the entrance of Reiner’s neighborhood, which is the only one in the area. That’s an idea Reiner offered.
Encinas looked into it and, weeks later, crews made those repairs.
“I am ecstatic the lights are on,” Reiner said after the fix, adding he immediately saw more people taking a walk at night.
“It's nice to come and be able to see where you're going,” he said.
TDOT said Tucsonans can help combat copper thieves and keep streets lights on. The advice: If a person sees anything or anyone suspicious on a street, they should 911 immediately. One way to stop them is to catch them, the department said.
Photographer: Jim Shields