Street Lighting Program

The City of Durham Street Light Program is administered by the Transportation Department. The program provides illumination for streets and thoroughfares, crime prevention, and for areas of high pedestrian and bicycle activity. Street lighting is a public utility provided by the City of Durham. This policy is effective April 25, 2020.

Street lighting is provided for public city and state maintained streets within the city limits. The program is divided into six subprograms: General Lighting, New Development Lighting, Crime Lighting, Annexation Lighting, Thoroughfare Lighting, and Upgraded Lighting. Streetlights are provided by the applicable utility provider: Duke Energy Company, Wake Electric, or Piedmont Electric Membership Corporation. The utility company designs, installs, operators, owns, and maintains the lighting. The City of Durham is billed monthly for street lighting costs.

To report outages on your street, or to request an adjustment to a street light


Street lights shall be approved for installation on public City of Durham and State maintained streets (within the City limits) where conditions meet the following criteria:

  • at street intersections
  • at cul-de-sacs if the nearest street light is over 140 feet away
  • at mid-block locations on new streets, or on existing streets when a sufficient petition is submitted to the Transportation Department by a majority of the affected property owners within the affected block. Minimum spacing for mid-block streetlights are according to AASHTO (American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials) standards
  • when recommended by the Transportation, Police, or Fire Departments
  • when funds are available

Street light requests shall be reviewed by the Transportation Department. Requests may be received from residents, City Council, public or private agencies, or the Transportation, Police, or Fire Departments. The applicable utility company shall make all installations after approval by the Transportation Department as to the size and type of materials.

The standard streetlight for a residential is a wooden pole with a 50-watt, light emitting diode (LED) roadway fixture, installed at a minimum height of twenty-five (25) feet. The customary standard light for a commercial area or thoroughfare is a wooden pole or a galvanized steel pole with a 150-, 220-, or 280-watt LED roadway fixture. The actual equipment and minimum heights is determined by the circumstances of the design. In some cases, the City of Durham may elect to upgrade the lighting for which the capital costs will be paid by the City of Durham. Street light designs for state maintained streets will be permitted and approved by the North Carolina Department of Transportation (NCDOT). The City will pay a flat monthly fee for each light, as established by the State Utilities Company, with all capital (other than previously noted) and maintenance costs borne by the applicable utility company.


Street lighting within new developments shall be installed along newly built streets to ASSHTO standards by the developer (refer to General Lighting above). The developer pays all costs associated with the street lighting, including upfront payments for upgraded lighting and contracts with the utility company for thirty-six (36) months of operation. Six months prior to the expiration of the contract, the developer, HOA, or Management Company shall contact the Transportation Department to request the City of Durham take over the operating costs of the street lighting within the development. Upon the expiration of the existing contract, if funds are available, the City of Durham will execute a new contract with the utility provider to assume the operation costs of the street lighting.

In order for private street lighting to be installed within your development, several items are needed by the Street Light Administrator to send Duke Energy, authorizing them to do the installation.

Submit the following required information by email to Terry Thompson:

  1. Developer’s name
  2. An approved subdivision plan showing phase lines
  3. The type of street lighting to be installed (standard or decorative – if decorative please be specific)
  4. A list of approved public street names (listed in an email) as they appear in each phase
  5. Complete contact information for the Developer, HOA and or Management Company including physical and email addresses, land line and cell telephone numbers.

Confirmation of the roadway classification will be confirmed with Earlene Thomas of the Transportation Department once the above items have been received. This information will also be included in the letter to Duke Energy. The letter to Duke Energy needs to be sent prior to Duke Energy completing the necessary subdivision infrastructure and lighting designs.  The developer/HOA/Management Company will be responsible for the operation bill for 36 months. The service agreement executed by the developer and Duke Energy must be sent to Terry Thompson, Street Light Administrator, in order for the City to issue C.O.’s.

Important information on New Development lighting is also included in the Street Light Requirement for New Development document (PDF).


Crime Lighting is installed on public City of Durham and State maintained streets (within the city limits) to reduce or prevent crime. The Brighten Our Streets Program was developed as one of the "Seven Point Crime Reduction Initiatives" ordered by City Council in 1997. The Police Department investigates crime lighting requests. From the results of a lighting assessment, the Police Department orders additional lighting, higher wattage lighting, or protective devices for lighting units. Crime light installations are installed as a priority by the utility company.


Annexation lighting is installed on streets the become public City of Durham streets through annexation (refer to General Lighting above). If streetlights exist on the annexed streets, but do not meet the city's minimum streetlight standard, the lights will be upgraded to stand lighting and the operation costs will be assumed by the City.


Thoroughfare lighting is installed, when funds are available, on thoroughfares that have not been upgraded to AASHTO standard lighting. Recommendations and petitions for thoroughfares to receive upgraded street lighting are received from the Transportation Department, City Council members, and residents.


The Transportation Department may grant a legal organization representing the majority of affected property owners (e.g. an HOA) to have standard street lighting upgraded to ones that may include decorative poles and fixtures, or higher lighting levels. The poles, lighting units and locations must meet or exceed the City's minimum standards for street lighting on a public street. Upon approval by the Transportation Department, the organization contracts with applicable utility company to pay the up-front capital costs associated with the upgraded lighting. The City of Durham will continue payment of the operating costs.


Upon expiration of the street light contract period and with prior approval from the Transportation Department and the Police Department, affected property owners may petition for the removal of a street light. Should the request be granted prior to the expiration of the contract period, the petitioners shall pay the amount remaining on the contract to the City of Durham Transportation Department.


Any exception to this policy will be considered on a case-by-case basis, upon evaluation, consideration, and recommendation of the Transportation Department.


Please contact Terry Thompson at 919-560-4366, extension 1, or by email