Snow stuck to stoplights less likely to melt from cooler LED bulbs

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CHICAGO — It’s three days since storms passed through the region, and while the roads are certainly driveable in most areas, you might not always know when you should stop or go — or where you are going.

Much of the heavy, wet snow that fell across Chicagoland Sunday and Monday found a new home, nestled on traffic lights, street signs and walk signals from Geneva to Chicago, and everywhere in-between.

Especially at busy intersections, it’s a dangerous and confusing scenario where blocked signals leave drivers in a traffic whiteout. All across social media, drivers and local municipalities are warning folks to be careful at intersections where the lights are indistinguishable.

As it turns out, the effort to be more efficient is part of the problem.

In the last couple of years, cities, villages, and townships have been making the transition to LED lighting. While cheaper and more energy-efficient, LED lights emit very little heat, and in cold temperatures they can’t melt away the snow packed in front of them.

That means road crews need to get them clear, but many communities need to wait in line. In Glenview for instance, the village only manages a handful of roads. Cook County’s Highway Department and the Illinois Department of Transportation manage the rest, but both departments are bogged down by massive amounts of work brought on by the massive early-season storm.

IDOT maintains almost 2,800 signals throughout cook and the collar counties. Officials say they have been out working to clear them since the storm hit, and will continue this week.

“The latest snowfall was particularly heavy and wet. With the high winds during the storm, it stuck to almost everything. The cold temperatures the last couple of days have caused some icing over of signs, signals, electrical poles ect.” IDOT said in a statement. “Even though the roads appear free of snow and ice, motorists should proceed cautiously and drive defensively when approaching intersections, because signals might be obscured in some locations.

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