State turns off flickering freeway lights, long-term solution underway


Sections of busy roadways across the island are in the dark while the state works to fix aging equipment.

We started asking questions when viewers sent us video of flickering lights on the H-1 Freeway. They were reported in Aiea, Waipahu, and Waikele.

The state Department of Transportation says the problem is due to old transformers that need to be replaced, but that won’t happen right away.

Once the state learned what was causing the flickering, it instructed crews working on the project to turn the lights off for the safety of drivers on their evening commute.

“There are some transformers that are bad and they’ve worked well for decades, and in fact in some of them are actually as much as 50 years old, so they’ve worked well and served their purpose, but they do need to be replaced,” said DOT spokesman Tim Sakahara.

The lights are newly installed LED bulbs, and the aging transformers were found to be only sending about half of the necessary voltage to the street lights, causing the strobing effect.

“These new transformers will go in and remedy that problem,” Sakahara said. “In the meantime, if the crews do see if there are any street lights that are blinking, they have been instructed to turn them off as opposed to letting them continue blinking.”

A total of eight transformers around the island are in the process of being replaced, so lights in these areas will be off until crews find a temporary fix.

As for a long-term solution, that involves replacing the old transformers with new ones.

“So in the meantime, those lights are going to have to be off so that’s going to stop the blinking. We do anticipate the transformers should be in place and replaced at about the start of the new year,” Sakahara said.

It’s not just the transformers that are being replaced. More than 20,000 lights on state roadways are being switched out for an energy-efficient option.

The state says it’s going to save $650 million in energy costs over 20 years.

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