Dimming the danger: Lytle Tunnel's hidden hazards getting fixed

Lytle Tunnel's hidden hazards getting fixed (WKRC)

CINCINNATI (WKRC) - Local 12 News was among the first stations in the country to investigate how new LED streetlights can be hazardous.

Local 12's Duane Pohlman focused on the new lights in the Lytle Tunnel on I-71. There have been some big changes to dim those tunnel lights.

Since Duane first pointed out the dangers of the new lights, the Ohio Department of Transportation (ODOT) has been busy making them less glaring.

The Lytle Tunnel is one of the only tunnels in the state of Ohio.

It is a crucial connector for I-71 through Cincinnati that is now lit by a lot of new LED lights.

“There's 1317 lights in all 3 tunnels combined,” said Joe Smithson, an ODOT Project Manager.

The fixtures are bright and white, but ODOT says they're nowhere near as bright as they were.

“We got control of them,” said Smithson.

Last year many people drove through the tunnel while the lights were overpowering, producing something the American Medical Association described as a "disability glare" which is an "impairment" that an AMA report called "a veil of illuminance" which "leads to worse vision than if the light never existed at all."

“We had the initial growing pain of the bright lights. Well, now everything's done and everything's back to normal,” said Joe Smithson, an ODOT Project Manager.

That "normal" was achieved by installing new technology.

ODOT agreed to give Local 12 and Duane an "all access" tour deep in to the bowels of the new tunnel to show it’s new, cutting-edge control center.

“This is the only lighting system in ODOT that has this ability, right now,” said Smithson.

The control center is the brain that keeps the lights from having the dangerous glare.

The computers are programmed to match the tunnel's lights to the level of the light outside.

“It'll be at the correct brightness when you're coming in or going out… it'll be seamless, almost,” said Smithson.

That "almost" seamless lighting transition into and out of the tunnel, ODOT says, is achieved using light sensors.

“What we have on each end of the tunnel is luminance sensors,” said Smithson.

The sensors will tell the computers when to turn the lights on or off.

“It tells you the point where it's good and where it's not so good… or when we need to make 'em brighter and when we need to make them dimmer,” said Smithson.

Bright during the day and dimmer at night, all to reduce the dangerous glare.

“So you don't have that quick adjustment and you don't get that blinded feeling,” said Smithson.

The cost of the new lighting and all those controls isn't cheap, totaling $2 million, but ODOT says it's worth it to keep people safe.

The individual lights are still bright, so ODOT is counting on you to not look at them directly.

The lights are just a part of the technology that's been added to the tunnel. The tunnel is loaded with new and expensive technology, designed to keep you safe.

There are also all new high tech tools that ODOT has installed to deal with other threats like fires.

Many Local 12 investigations start with a tip from you. If you want to contact Duane, you can call him on the Local 12 Investigates Tip Line at 513-763-5425.

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