If you’ve been to the intersection of Old San Carlos and Estero Boulevard at night you’ve probably noticed the amber lights above the new traffic signal. There’s a growing number of people on the beach who believe these amber lights will eventually be the lights we’ll see up and down all of Estero Boulevard. Here’s what we know.
We know if any lights are installed on Estero Boulevard they will be amber. This council has made it clear they want amber. A big reason for that is to protect the turtles. Estero Boulevard is extremely close to the beach and bright lights easily disorient turtles. We know the town decision-makers want consistency. They don’t want to flip a switch at the end of turtle season and turn the amber lights to bright white.
We also know that Lee County owns Estero Boulevard and, as of now, they are not willing to pay for any additional lights other than the $1.4 million they’ve committed to light 42 crosswalks as part of the Estero Boulevard construction project. Mayor Ray Murphy and Town Manager Roger Hernstadt are trying to negotiate funds from Lee County to help fund the new lights. Murphy also wants to take ownership of the road when the construction project is completed.
The most cost efficient solution for Fort Myers Beach taxpayers is to partner with FPL and use a lighting system on their tariff program which means FPL would pick up a lot of the cost. FPL’s Tariff program is afforded to municipalities on a one-time basis to subsidize projects due to a conversion from old technology, such as high-pressure sodium, to LED’s. If the town tries to go it alone, and get into the lighting business, it becomes very costly.
The amber lights above the new traffic light are called Visionaire BLX. It’s the amber fixture that Lee County has standardized for the three signal projects on the beach because the county will be maintaining those lights. The Visionaire BLX is FWC approved which means it is turtle friendly.
Now, you may be thinking, easy enough, let’s just get those lights up and make Estero Boulevard safer at night. Here’s the catch. The light is not yet on the FPL approved list, which means FPL would not cover the bulk of the cost. But that could be changing soon.
The town’s most recent lighting consultant, Town Lighting, prepared a menu of options for the town to consider on Estero Boulevard. As you can see by the chart below, there’s a huge difference in the price with the Visionaire not on the FPL approved list.
We understand that samples from the Visionaire will be submitted to FPL at the end of this month. The system is rigorously tested by FPL for quality, salt resistance, and electrical performance before being added to their list, which could take up to 6 months. Then, if FPL signs off on the light, it could be added to the tariff program.
So where does everything stand now? There are two tracks to keep your eyes on. The negotiations between the town and county on who’s going to pay for new lights. And, FPL’s testing of this amber light and if it gets approved and added to their tariff program.