This is the first time the Lee County Board of Commissioners will discuss the Estero Boulevard lighting situation since Fort Myers Beach Mayor Ray Murphy began his negotiations with commissioners. Murphy wants the county to pay for new amber lights the council wants installed on Estero Boulevard.
Mayor Murphy appears to be stalled in his effort to get an answer on whether the county will pay for new turtle-friendly lights. Last week Murphy told the full council, “I made a few phone calls. I’m still waiting to hear back.”
Murphy said he was given assurances there was something forthcoming. “That hasn’t happened yet. It’s their road and it’s their responsibility to do something. I’ve been assured they are going to step up. I just don’t know when. I’m waiting to see what they are going to do. Our demands are for you, Lee County, to step up and light your road. Fund the project.”
We may hear exactly what county commissioners think about funding the project today.
About two months ago the county was given the resolution the town approved for the new amber lights. Lee County staff has been looking that resolution over and the issue will be discussed when County Manager Roger Desjarlais discusses his list of items toward the end of the meeting today.
The county has already invested $80 million in the soon-to-be completed Estero Boulevard construction project. It’s our understanding from several people that when the original road construction project deal was signed, the town council at that time, agreed they would take care of the lights. The county agreed to fund the lighting for 42 crosswalks along the Boulevard at a cost of $1.4 million.
The estimate for new amber lights, from a town hired lighting consultant, was in the millions (see chart below). Marine Resources Task Force Committee Chairman Steve Johnson said on Beach Talk Radio this past Saturday that he understands the cost would be closer to $400,000.
For a little history on this issue, several years ago, TEAM Engineering out of Orlando completed an extensive study on the Estero Boulevard lighting challenge. It was commissioned by The Lee County Metropolitan Planning Organization for Fort Myers Beach (READ IT HERE).
The firm concluded the lighting on Estero Boulevard, as it still stands today, is confusing to drivers, who would be unable to make adjustments or react properly on the road at night. In some places lights were 100 feet apart, in other areas, 1,000 feet apart.
The firm recommended standardizing the situation by modifying 113 existing light fixtures and adding 87 supplemental ones. However, if amber lights were used, the firm concluded the town would need between 400 and 500 light fixtures.
Then, in a supplement to the report, the firm made contact with FPL to get their option for turtle friendly lights. FPL said their only turtle-friendly option would require a total of 688 poles, more wiring and transformers, at cost $7.74 million. Technology has improved since then and it appears the pricing for turtle-friendly lights has come down.
The county board meeting begins at 9:30 this morning. We’ll have a full report following the meeting.
If Lee County refuses to pay for boulevard lighting and Town of FMB is forced to write the check it’ll be interesting to see:
Human safety versus turtle safety, which is more important?
The cost difference between white lights and amber lights to achieve the same (safe) illumination level?
How many additional poles, transformers and light fixtures will be required for amber lighting the turtle people want?
How much will lighting eventually cost the town / taxpayers?
Where will funding come from considering they are already short funds to complete the three projects already underway; and the funding dilemma will dramatically worsen if the town loses the south end beach walkover lawsuit.
We’re our five council members able to speak during public comments and stress the importance of better lighting on Estero Blvd? I’m betting that the chamber was filled with concerned turtle people pleading their case for amber lights.
This is the opportunity for members of the FMB Council to show up an make their concerns known.
I’m assuming the county allows public comment. If they do, all 5 council members should attend the county meeting to voice their concerns in regard to lack of lighting and the dangerous road conditions we have at night.
Looking forward to your follow-up after todays meeting
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