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Ask NOW: When do the street lights go on?

Elm Grove’s street lights have sensors that turn on the lights.

Elm Grove’s street lights have sensors that turn on the lights. Photo By Rory Linnane

Dec. 11, 2013

Is there a rumor you'd like tracked down? Rory Linnane answers some of the mysteries of life in Brookfield and helps solve everyday problems.

Reader wonders why Watertown Plank Road is dark

Question: A reader was driving on Watertown Plank Road at about 4:15 p.m. and said it was difficult to see with drizzle and fog. She wrote: "I realized it was made worse because the street lights were not on yet. This made for hazardous driving. A cyclist making his way through this mess was practically invisible despite his extra hazard lights. My question is this: Why aren't the lights going on sooner?"

Answer: The timing of the lights is actually largely out of the hands of human beings, left to "electric eyes" that sense when it is dark enough to require light. The level of darkness required is preset by the factory that makes the eyes, Elm Grove Director of Public Works Richard Paul said.

In the winter, the lights usually flick on around 4:30 p.m., with the time extending to about 8 p.m. in the summer, Paul said. Weather factors like fog and storms cause the lights to come on sooner. Elm Grove has street lights on Watertown Plank Road, Elm Grove Road and some on Wall Street.

The city of Brookfield has a similar sensing system for its lights, which go on around the same time. While the system is self-operating, Brookfield Director of Public Works Thomas Grisa said the sensors do occasionally fail, and he urged residents to call the city if they notice lights are not on when it's dark. Brookfield has street lights on almost all arterial roads that intersect with side streets.

Email Rory Linnane with your question at

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