Fort Myers Beach town councilman Dan Allers is getting a lot accomplished on the issue of lighting Estero boulevard. He’s been working directly with Lee County officials to try to come up with a solution both government entities can live with. At the least he’s preparing to provide residents with more information on the topic than has ever been available to them before.
According to Allers, Lee County is moving forward with the design phase of lighting 42 crosswalks on Estero boulevard as part of the recently complete road construction project. Lee County had planned to light those crosswalks, and pay that cost which was pegged at about $1.4 million. However, four months ago, after the town requested the county pay for more than just lighting the crosswalks, Lee County pledged to turn over that $1.4 million to Fort Myers Beach to use toward lighting the entire boulevard.
The town council wants to install all new amber lights on Estero boulevard to protect the turtles, and, the council wanted Lee County to pay for those lights because Lee County owns the boulevard.
Every turtle season many of the lights on Estero boulevard have to be turned off to protect the turtles, which also makes the road much darker and less safe at night. Lee County has told the council they will not be contributing any additional Lee County taxpayer dollars to light the road. If they want more lights, they need to come up with the money. That’s why the county pledged the $1.4 million and told the town they could put it toward whatever lights they decided to install.
That brings us to what Allers has been working on.
Allers wants the residents to know how much it would cost to install lights on all 5.7 miles of Estero Boulevard. Then, perhaps, let the voters decide if they might be willing to raise the mileage rate to cover the cost, if that’s what it takes to make the boulevard safer. Another option to pay for the lights would be for the town to hold off on other projects it has on the drawing board to get the lights installed.
Allers presented the town council with a worst-case scenario option. That option is an amber lighting fixture, not yet approved by FWC, installed by Lee County. The amber light at the corner of Old San Carlos and Estero boulevard was installed by Lee County. It’s not an FPL approved amber light. It is an FWC and FDOT approved amber light. It’s also the light Lee County is planning to use at the 42 crosswalks.
Lee County officials provided Allers with an estimate of what it would cost to install that amber light on all 5.7 miles of Estero boulevard at 150 foot intervals, on both sides of the road. The project would include 400 poles, conduits and pull boxes. The county would do all the work and the town would pay for that work, through an interlocal agreement. The total cost to town taxpayers would be $4.5 million, paid back to the county over 5 to 7 years.
Right now, FPL is testing a light that, if approved, would be covered under the FPL tariff program, saving taxpayers a lot of money. That would be the best-case scenario, an FPL approved amber light that FPL would install and pay for. The results of that test should be known by next month.