PITTSFIELD -- Tyler Street business owners and residents heard some encouragement this week in their quest for upgraded street lighting throughout the district.

That came from a proposed engineering assessment of lighting needs and options that is being considered by city officials.

Speaking before the City Council's Committee on Public Health and Safety, Commissioner of Public Utilities Bruce Collingwood said the initial assessment phase would cost about $12,500. He had requested a proposal for an assessment from Fuss & O'Neill Inc., a firm that has worked with the city on downtown improvement projects.

Proponents of improved lighting hope it will make residents and shoppers feel safer walking at night, leading to increased business activity and enhanced quality of life.

"The No. 1 reason for this is safety," business owner Ron Marcella told committee members. He said studies have shown a correlation between street lighting and criminal activity.

He said the Tyler Street Business Group, which his wife, Diane, chairs, also believes improved street lighting would spur economic development and "create a more vibrant community."

The business organization and the Morningside Initiative have been working to improve the section of Pittsfield, and new lighting is considered a primary goal.

Karen Rowe, of Be Well Berkshires, and James Wilusz, director of public health with the Tri-Town Health Department, both spoke in favor of the improvements as a companion to their work to establish a walking loop through the area to promote fitness and enhance the neighborhood.

Be Well Berkshires, which has helped establish walking loops in Stockbridge, Lee, Lenox and the village of Housatonic, is working to develop a similar amenity in the city, Wilusz said. "I think lighting is a major part of Tyler Street [improvement efforts]," he said.

Collingwood said he will next meet with Mayor Daniel L. Bianchi to discuss funding for the initial phase of a lighting assessment, which he said could be done in about a month once approved.

There is street lighting on the south side of Tyler Street from First Street to Dalton Avenue, Collingwood said, but none on the northern side. The assessment work would determine the lighting levels required and options for placing fixtures and for wiring connections.

The installation cost per fixture, before wiring costs, is estimated at about $5,100, he said, and the area to be upgraded is up to 4,000 feet in length.

To install lighting on the northern side of the Tyler Street business district would cost roughly $400,000 to $500,000, he said.

In answer to questions from councilors, Collingwood said it seems unlikely a large percentage of grant funding from sources the city has utilized for similar work would be available, although all state or federal sources will be explored.

"It would most likely be a city capital project," he said.

However, he added later that it is important to have preliminary assessment and/or project design work in hand so the city can seek any construction grants that become available.

Council committee members Kevin Morandi, Lisa Tully, John Krol, Nicholas Caccamo and Anthony Simonelli all expressed support from the initiative. Morandi, the chairman, and others praised the efforts of the business and Morningside groups to improve the neighborhood.

To reach Jim Therrien:
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