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Editorial: Improving street lighting around campus good idea

May. 17, 2013 @ 12:17 AM

Bright street lighting helps deter crime and make our communities safer.

Criminals, of course, like the dark. It makes it easier to snatch a purse or break into a car without being detected or recognized.

Street lights also discourage crime in more indirect ways. Police become more visible, and good lighting encourages residents to venture outside at night. The more people on their porches and walking the sidewalks, the greater a neighborhood's "informal surveillance," as one Department of Justice report described it.

But maintaining and expanding good lighting is not as easy as flipping a switch -- especially for cities such as Huntington, where infrastructure needs always exceed existing resources. That challenge surfaced several years ago, when the city's downtown revitalization efforts began to bring more people downtown at night.

The Herald-Dispatch surveyed several downtown blocks one night in 2007 and found that one of every four street lights was out. Much progress has been made since then, with a new focus on downtown lights, as well as the Old Main Corridor project, which added new lights along 4th Avenue, and the traffic system replacement project on 3rd and 5th avenues, which provided a number of new lights.

But there is still work to do in other areas, particularly in the blocks around the Marshall University campus.

Huntington Mayor Steve Williams has been in talks with the university administration and American Electric Power to explore possible locations for additional lighting.

In particular, student groups have mentioned the blocks of 5th Avenue between 14th Street and Hal Greer Boulevard, where several fraternity houses are located. There are no streetlights there now, but not surprisingly, plenty of students walk those blocks to and from campus.

City officials also recently met with staff and students of the university's medical school about the areas around Cabell Huntington Hospital and the Erma Ora Byrd Clinical Center. Students are often walking between the two facilities, and better lighting could help make that a safer trip.

Both of these are good initiatives, and over time, the city and university need to look to other blocks near campus that are lined with student apartments.

The added or improved street lights will create a safer environment for current students and create a better impression for potential students and their parents visiting Marshall.

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