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Tallmadge lights fall prey to wind, accidents

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Evanston aldermen this week approved buying 14 more Tallmadge light fixtures as the aging street lights continue to fall to traffic accidents and high winds.

The purchase this week follows approval just last August to buy 23 of the lights in an effort to catch up on a backlog of damaged poles.

James Maiworm, infrastructure maintenance bureau chief for the city’s Public Works Agency, says seven poles were blown down during two high wind events in March alone.

So, he says, while it looks now like the latest purchase should catch up on the backlog and provide a couple of poles in reserve, it’s hard to tell how long that situation will last.

Working on a Tallmadge light on Ridge Avenue today.

And since the lights are a custom item from a sole-source supplier, getting new ones, he says, requires a three-month lead time.

The lights were designed almost a century ago by Evanston architect Thomas Eddy Tallmadge. And despite several upgrades to newer, brighter bulbs, many residents still complain that they deliver more light into the windows of homes than onto the streets and sidewalks where it’s wanted.

As a custom cast-metal item, with the latest order a Tallmadge fixture, pole and base set now costs $6,815 each — more than twice the price of plastic replicas that lack some of the custom Evanston design elements.

Aldermen so far have been reluctant to buck the views of traditionalists who like the old-style lamps, although they did recently opt to go with contemporary style LED fixtures when davit-arm lights are replaced along the Green Bay Road corridor later this year.

The city has about 4,000 of the traditional Tallmadge lights in service.

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