Repairs to purple street lights held up


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Defective street lights in Winnipeg appear set to cast a purple hue indefinitely, as supply chain woes delay the effort to replace them.

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Defective street lights in Winnipeg appear set to cast a purple hue indefinitely, as supply chain woes delay the effort to replace them.

Nearly 2,000 of Winnipeg’s energy-saving LED street lights have been reported defective over the past two years, leading them to glow purple instead of white.

Manitoba Hydro, which is paid by the city to maintain its street lights, has replaced more than 1,000 of the defective lights since April 2021.


Purple street lights can be seen at the same time as white street lights on Wellington Crescent and Hugo Street in January.

At last check, about 884 purple lights remained in place throughout Winnipeg, a city report notes.

While some may deem the colourful glow to be pretty, a city councillor worries the light is actually dimmer and poses a safety risk.

“From my perspective, the defective lights do not provide proper illumination down our streets. The switch to these LED lights is about energy efficiency and that’s great. But if there’s a string of (defective ones) together on a block, it really doesn’t provide good illumination, thereby reducing road safety at night,” said Coun. Markus Chambers. “It really reduces both motor vehicle safety and pedestrian (safety) for those that are walking along streets… as far as visibility goes.”

The defect occurs when a yellowish phosphor coating, which converts the purple or blue base colour of LEDs to white, comes off.

The problem has been noticed on many prominent routes in the city, including parts of Wilkes Avenue, Corydon Avenue, Lakewood Boulevard, St. Anne’s Road, Plessis Road, Archibald Street and Main Street, the city report said.

Two years after the problem was noticed, it’s not clear when all defective lights will be replaced, since Hydro is up against supply chain delays for parts to repair the problem, a city report notes.

“Manitoba Hydro is actively in the process of changing out the lights and does not have a projected completion date, as they are experiencing delays related to the supply of replacement lights,” wrote David Patman, the city’s manager of transportation planning, in the report.

Patman notes the problem is not unique to Winnipeg. Purple street lights have popped up in Vancouver, several U.S. states and the United Kingdom.

Chambers said Winnipeggers should continue to report purple lights to 311, so the repairs can happen as soon as replacements are available.

“I’m starting to see more and more (lights get) fixed but the efforts need to be continued… especially once we get into the winter months, there’s more evening-time darkness (along roads),” said Chambers.

The issue can also be reported directly to Manitoba Hydro.

Janice Lukes, chairwoman of council’s public works committee, said she has heard concerns about the purple glow from residents.

“For sure, they’re dimmer than the white lights. I’ve had some people tell me it does impact their driving ability,” said Lukes.

However, Lukes expects there is little Hydro can do to ramp up the pace of repairs.

“If they can’t get the product, they can’t get the product, so people will have to drive cautiously if it affects them,” she said.

In an email, Manitoba Hydro spokesman Riley McDonald said the purple lights are “an ongoing issue with more reports coming in from customers regularly,” though Hydro has been assured replacement street lights won’t be subject to the same problem.

He indicated Hydro doesn’t believe the purple lights pose a road safety concern.

“There is no known safety risk from purple street lights. They emit the same amount of light, just in a different colour,” McDonald wrote.

Hydro notes LED lights have several benefits: they last longer, are more energy efficient and require less general maintenance than high-pressure sodium models.

Twitter: @joyanne_pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Joyanne Pursaga

Born and raised in Winnipeg, Joyanne loves to tell the stories of this city, especially when politics is involved. Joyanne became the city hall reporter for the Winnipeg Free Press in early 2020.

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