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Problems cited with new energy-efficient traffic lights

New energy-efficient traffic lights like those being installed on Long Island roadways will save money, but in some other parts of the country there's concern that they may endanger lives.

The new LED traffic lights use less energy and burn out less frequently than lights with traditional incandescent bulbs, experts have said, but they also give off less heat, causing a problem in extreme winter.

In regions that are often subject to extreme cold weather and snow, there have been numerous incidents in which the LED traffic lights have become caked with snow and ice, making it impossible for motorists to tell whether they were red or green, according to The Associated Press and other news reports. The heat given off by the older bulbs reduced that problem.

But a New York State Transportation Department official said she had not heard about similar problems on Long Island. Eileen Peters, the spokeswoman, said the state has installed LED lights for the past 10 years on Long Island and is installing them at about 900 intersections in Nassau and Suffolk.

"This is not something that's been brought to my attention," Peters said. "I can't recall a single complaint, and we've been changing the signals over time. It's probably been at least a decade now."

In recent years, Nassau officials said, about 200 traffic signals were equipped with LEDs, and they announced last month there would be LEDs placed at all the county-controlled 1,600 intersections. County officials have estimated that the LED signals will save taxpayers at least $100,000 per year. County officials could not be reached last night.

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