According to Suzanne Lansford from Town Lighting Engineers, the firm the town is paying to conduct the Estero Boulevard lighting study, their work must be completed by the end of September. And, she said, that’s pretty quick for such a big project.
On Wednesday the consultants held a stakeholders meeting, which included representatives from the town, Lee County, the Fire Department, Turtle Time, FWC and others. Any group that might be impacted by the new lighting was invited to the meeting, which was made public by Town Manager Roger Hernstadt two days before the meeting was held on Zoom.
During the meeting Fort Myers Beach Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Jacki Liszak said what she wants to see out of this “is to get the Boulevard lit up so it’s safe for pedestrians, families, people walking dogs, bicycle riders, cars and for our turtles. It’s a tall order but it’s incredibly dark out there right now and its very dangerous. I want to see this moved along so that we don’t have any accidents.”
After the consultant takes time to study the situation on Estero Boulevard, a video presentation on how the project is progressing will be prepared for the public to view. Reports will also be made at two upcoming council meetings with the consultant submitting 30%, 60%, 90% plans for the project.
Lansford also said, “We’ll need to come up with a funding plan and a maintenance plan. The maintenance plan will depend on the system chosen by the council. If it’s a utilities system, FPL will maintain the lights. If it’s a town owned system, the town will need to pay for maintenance.”
We know from previous studies that a town owned system will be the more costly route for taxpayers. A perfect scenario would be for FPL to be able to produce lights that are turtle friendly, safe for drivers, at a reasonable cost, and maintain those lights on their own poles. FPL doesn’t appear to be at that point yet with their menu of options.
The biggest chalenge has always been finding lights that do not disorient turtles.
One of the consultants on the Zoom call Wednesday, Joe Hancock, said he has experience working with turtle-safe lighting in Bradenton Beach and in Sarasota. Hancock said, “We got a lot of good data from that. We do the engineering, but then the city needs to decide.”
So it appears it could be at least a year or even longer before there is any light on Estero Boulevard. If the study is completed on time, the council would then need to decide on an option, then there’s the construction. On the not-to-distant horizon will be Margaritaville construction, the foot of the bridge redesign and the renovations to Times Square.
One other stakeholder meeting in approximately one month. During the meeting Town Lighting Engineers shared their contact information with everyone on the call, so we are sharing it with all of you here: