Posted on February 18, 2013

Aging Infrastructure, Thieves Darken Freeways

Crain’s Detroit Business, February 15, 2013

Hundreds of lights along Southeast Michigan freeways aren’t working because of aging infrastructure, copper thieves and a lack of money for replacements, according to the Michigan Department of Transportation.

About 20 percent of the roughly 5,500 lights on poles for which the department is responsible along freeways in Wayne, Oakland, Macomb and St. Clair counties are dark, The Detroit News reported today. {snip}

About 1,100 of the lights on poles aren’t working, including those on 200 poles removed because of structural deficiencies, MDOT spokesman Rob Morosi said. {snip}

“We removed the poles to keep the driving public safe,” Morosi said. “We intend to replace those poles, but there’s no timetable because we just don’t have the funds right now.”

Copper thieves also are to blame for some outages, he said.

“It’s not like the copper thieves are running out onto the freeway and stealing copper from the poles to sell at scrap yards,” Morosi said. “Instead, they are attacking the transformer cabinets, many of which are actually located on the service drives.


MDOT has identified the area around I-94 east of I-75 as one of the worst-hit by thieves. Besides causing hazards for motorist, the thefts themselves are potentially dangerous. In October, MDOT said, a man was electrocuted near I-96 while trying to steal copper wire from a transformer.