The consulting firm charged with putting together a lighting plan for the 6 miles of roadway that make up Estero Boulevard held its second meeting this week with the stakeholders committee. Representatives from Town Lighting say they’ve now collected data on the current lighting setup and are formulating their plan.
Town Lighting representatives say they drove 100 miles in two days, while on Fort Myers Beach, analyzing the system. The goal for the firm is to come up with recommendations for the town council to consider focused on: residents feeling safe on the Boulevard, preventing accidents between vehicles, pedestrians and bicyclists and protecting turtles.
And while the firm is not yet ready to make a final recommendation to the council on the type of lighting or the cost of a new system, they did come to one conclusion from their research…what Fort Myers Beach has now, high pressure sodium lighting, is obsolete technology and expensive. Most of the lights on Estero Boulevard are now turned completely off at night because every inch of the beach is a potential turtle nesting area.
In addition to the data collected from studying Estero Boulevard, Town Lighting has requested information from 10 lighting vendors while they consider options to present to the town.
There are many complicated tentacles to this project. In addition to the town’s clear intention to protect turtles, there’s the proximity of Estero Boulevard to homes on side streets that lighting can easily intrude upon. There’s an abundance of businesses on both sides of the Boulevard, some with lighting of their own, all with entranceways that spill out onto the busy road adding to the safety issue. As construction comes to an end, the road is being used more by bicyclists. There’s the fact that the town doesn’t even own Estero Boulevard, Lee County does. And, it’s more than just the light itself or whether it’s LED or amber, there’s the height of the poles and the number of poles needed, depending on the strength of the light to avoid dead spots.
On the table of course are amber lights, which are typically considered the last resort, according to the consultant. Town Lighting representatives said during the meeting this week amber lights make it difficult to see colors and still need shielding to protect the turtles. But for sure, amber will be in the mix somehow. FWC has determined that white LED lights are not turtle friendly, even if they have shields, end of story.
FWC seems to favor the amber Cree LED fixture available from FP&L. Back in 2019 FWC Biological Administrator Robbin Trindell, in an e-mail to the town council, said the fixture produces a soft, amber glow that has been well received by citizens, and it was also reviewed by Florida Department of Transportation staff as an acceptable option for roadway lighting.
In 2020 Trindell told then councilman Bruce Butcher that FPL was working with FWC to develop a long wavelength amber LED light with a higher lumen output. And, according to Trindell, the light qualifies for a tariff, or grant, from FPL because it reduces carbon footprint. Embedded roadway lights, another option favored by FWC, has also been mentioned.
While there’s been a lot of discussion and debate so far about the type of light, there hasn’t been much said yet about cost. The consultant has until September to put a plan together for the town council to consider. By then residents should know how much it will cost to keep them safe on Estero Boulevard and the turtles headed in the right direction toward the water.
Next up for the consultant is to present to the Public Safety committee on Tuesday and the Marine Resources Task Force committee on Wednesday.