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Roadway lighting improvements

Good quality and placement of lighting can enhance an environment as well as increase comfort and safety. Pedestrians often assume that motorists can see them at night; they are deceived by their own ability to see the oncoming headlights. Without sufficient overhead lighting motorists may not be able to see pedestrians in time to stop.

In commercial areas with night time pedestrian activity, street lights and building lights can enhance the ambiance of the area and the visibility of pedestrians by motorists. It is best to place street lighting along both sides of arterial streets and to provide a consistent level of lighting along a roadway. Nighttime pedestrian crossing areas may be supplemented with brighter or additional lighting.

In commercial areas or in downtown areas, specialty pedestrian level lighting may be placed over the sidewalks to improve pedestrian comfort, security and safety. Mercury vapor or incandescent lighting is often preferred as pedestrian level lighting. Low pressure sodium lights are low energy use but have a high level of color distortion.

This well–lit commercial district is an attractive place to shop in the evening. The combination of pedestrian scaled street lighting, holiday lights in the trees, and light from shop windows enhances visibility and creates a secure and festive atmosphere.

The material provided on this page is from the FHWA publication "Pedestrian Facilities User Guide." This guide is currently under review by practicioners and others in the field. Subsequently, the material provided on this page is subject to change in the future.

sidewalks or walkways

street furniture

curb ramps

marked crosswalks and enhancements

transit stop treatments

roadway lighting improvements

pedestrian overpasses / underpasses


• Enhance safety of all roadway users, and particularly pedestrians.

• Enhance commercial districts.

• Improve nighttime security.


• Ensure pedestrian walkways and crosswalks are well lit.

• Install lighting on both sides of wide streets and streets in commercial districts.

• Use uniform lighting levels.

Estimated Cost:

Varies depending on fixture type and service agreement with local utility.

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