Why are some streetlights in Lawrence purple, and when will they be fixed? Answers here

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To some, they’re kind of cool; reminiscent of a rave. To others, they’re the scourge of our day — or more accurately, of our nights. 

They’re peculiar, they’re talking points, and they’re less welcome in Lawrence than they are in Manhattan. 

They are purple streetlights. 


Why are some of the streetlights in Lawrence turning purple? 

The source of the violet hue is actually a subcomponent of the light fixture that is prematurely failing, said Andrew Baker, a spokesperson for Evergy. 

“What that does is it allows too much of that purple light spectrum to shine through and change the color of the light,” Baker said. “It’s not intentional; the device is just prematurely failing.” 

Is the problem only in Lawrence? 

Nope. Evergy is seeing the same problem in Topeka, Manhattan, Wichita and Emporia, Baker said. 

A quick Google search shows that towns all over the country have seen the same defect.

How do they get fixed? 

Since it’s a component of the light fixture that is failing, the fix isn’t as simple as swapping out a lightbulb.

The manufacturer of the lights has taken responsibility for them, Baker said, and the LED lights that are failing are being swapped out for different lights.

Evergy has had regular conversations with them to stay updated on the replacement process, which has already begun in Topeka, Baker said.

Mackenzie Clark / The Lawrence Times A purple streetlight shines above Haskell Avenue in Lawrence on July 21, 2021.

When will Lawrence’s streetlights get fixed?

Baker said Topeka and Wichita are first on the list for replacements, and he did not have a timeline Thursday for when repairs in Lawrence might start.

However, he said Evergy has a goal of “zero blue lights” in Kansas within four months — at least for the lights that the company already knows need to be replaced. 

He said Evergy will be surveying its entire service area to make sure the lights get fixed; however, it’s possible that the problem could reoccur. Essentially, more streetlights could still fail, and those additional lights could take longer than the four-month goal to fix.

How many lights need to be replaced?

Baker said Thursday that Evergy is aware of 240 total blue-purple streetlights in Lawrence. He didn’t have a total number of streetlights in Lawrence for comparison, though.

He said that so far in Topeka, the manufacturers have replaced about 1,200 lights. 

What will it cost customers?

The lights were under warranty, and they’ll be replaced at the manufacturer’s cost, Baker said. Evergy, the affected cities and customers will not have to pay. 

Are the defective lights harmful to the health of humans or animals? 

There’s nothing hazardous about the lights, Baker said — it’s just something that people aren’t used to seeing. 

The lights still shine bright and light up the area for safety as intended; they’re just a different color, he said. 

You can report purple streetlights, or issues such as flickering bulbs and damage, to Evergy at this link

Note: This story was updated at 2:17 p.m. Thursday, July 22, 2021 to add the total number of blue-purple streetlights in Lawrence.

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Mackenzie Clark (she/her), reporter/founder of The Lawrence Times, can be reached at mclark (at) lawrencekstimes (dot) com or 785-422-6363. Read more of her work for the Times here. Check out her staff bio here.

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