Street lights in Birmingham provide night-time illumination from 29,117 light standards located on rights-of-way throughout the city.
When electric street lights first appeared, they created brightly-lit corridors, called White Ways, which attracted evening shoppers, especially in the dark winter months. The first such corridor was the "electric arcade" sponsored by the House of Jacobs on 3rd Avenue North. 5th Avenue North, which connected the Birmingham Terminal Station with downtown Birmingham, soon eclipsed it. The Highway Department installed electric lights down the length of the Bessemer Super Highway in the 1940s, creating what was billed as "the longest white way east of the Rocky Mountains."
In recent decades, the expansion and maintenance of street lighting has been tied to the perception of public safety. Richard Arrington made street lighting improvements a central part of his campaign for Mayor of Birmingham in the 1979 election. Birmingham City Council candidate Leroy Bandy ran on the same issue in the 2009 election.
On June 21, 2016 the Birmingham City Council authorized Mayor William Bell to enter into a "Master Contract for Lighting Services" with the Alabama Power Company to replace all of the city's existing street lights with LED fixtures. The program, referred to as the "Birmingham Streetlight Upgrade," is part of the larger "Lit Bham" project to replace light fixtures in city buildings and parking garages.
Under the agreement, Alabama Power took ownership of about 7,000 standards that had been city-owned— carried out repairs and light replacements— and will lease the lights back to the city. Ongoing maintenance and power service will be provided by the utility under contract to the city. Birmingham will continue to pay Alabama Power $5,388,000 per year through 2021 based on the old fixtures.
Because rates for LED street lighting are not regulated by the Alabama Public Service Commission, estimates of the extent to which the city will be able to realize direct cost savings after 2021 vary. A cost-benefit analysis was jointly conducted by the city and Alabama Power in 2019. The city also expects to benefit from better visibility, reliability and reduced light pollution.
- Hammond, Frank (February 1916) "Birmingham--The City of Lights" The Birmingham Magazine, Vol. 1, No. 5, pp. 19, 44 - via Birmingham Public Library Digital Collections
- Westlake, Allison (March 29, 2016) "City of Birmingham and Alabama Power work to upgrade streetlights to LED." Alabama NewsCenter
- Perry, Chiara (June 24, 2016) "Birmingham City Councilors Continue to Implement Energy Efficient Measures in Community as Means to Save on Costs." Birmingham City Council Public Information Office
- Bisaha, Stephan (April 24, 2017) "Savings Uncertain With Birmingham’s LED Street Lights" WBHM.org
- Owens, Cody (August 31, 2017) "City to Shine Brighter with Newly Installed LED Street Lights." The Birmingham Times
- Beahm, Anna (April 10, 2019) "Birmingham: Streetlight replacement complete; interstate lighting next." The Birmingham News
- Owens, Cody (January 30, 2020) "City Officials Continue Push for Citywide LED Light Upgrades" The Birmingham Times