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San Luis residents look forward to street lights on 8th Avenue
SAN LUIS, Ariz.– Residents here can finally see a light at the end of the tunnel.
Well, maybe not at the end of the tunnel, but they're looking forward to the not-too-distant future when street lights will permit them to see more clearly along 8th Avenue at night.
In a grassroots campaign that began more than two years ago, residents have made repeated appeals to City Hall for street lights on 8th as well as Urtuzuastegui Street on the south side of city.
The city answered part of their calls in 2012, completing the project to install lights along Urtuzuastegui from 5th to 8th avenues. But the second phase, lighting 8th between San Luis Street to Juan Sanchez Boulevard, has lagged – that is, until last week, when workers began installing wire for the utility poles along 8th.
The poles themselves haven't gone up yet, and city officials can't give a definite date for when the lights will be turned on. But resident Cain Santamaria said the appearance of the poles is nonetheless a positive sign that the project is moving forward.
"We've waited more than 30 months," he said. "I hope that now it gets done soon."
In 2011, Santamaria appeared before the city council with petitions signed by hundreds of residents calling for lights to reduce what they described as a high risk of pedestrians being struck by passing motorists traveling on unlighted roadways in their neighborhoods after dark.
At the same time, Santamaria presented the council with an estimate of $57,000 as the cost of installing lights along the stretches of 8th and Urtuzuastegui. He said he got the quote independently to counter city officials he said had previously told him the lighting projects would cost six times more.
San Luis officials said at the time they recognized the need for the lights, but said a lack of funds in the city budget had forced delays in the work.
Having turned the lights on on Urtuzuastegui a year earlier, city officials said last February that they hoped to have the lights in place along 8th Avenue within a couple of months. Then the projected completion date was pushed back to this month.
City spokesman Javier Morales said work crews from Arizona Public Service were on site last week extending wire between the designated pole locations along 8th Avenue. This week they are scheduled to begin putting the poles in place.
"APS is very aware that this is a high priority project for the City of San Luis, and will work to complete it as soon as they are able to do so," Morales said in an e-mail to Bajo El Sol.
"This is something that is urgent and necessary, owing to risk of accidents, which only becomes greater as winter approaches and the days get shorter," said Maria Elida Magallon, who lives along 8th Avenue. "A lot of students pass by here" on their way to and from school, "and many other people walk here. I used to go out walking, but I quit doing it because of the problem with darkness."
While he's happy to see the utility poles in place, Santamaria said he and other residents will keep up the pressure on City Hall until the lights are actually on.
"I believe they're close to finishing the installation, but in any case, it leaves a bad taste in people's mouths because a project that was so small took 30 months," Santamaria said.
"I hope this serves as an example so that more people join together (in demanding municipal services). Just because they happen to be (city) officials, we're not going to have them on a pedestal."