The Fight For The Right Lights Continues

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Installing lights on Estero Boulevard has been a complicated problem for the town of Fort Myers Beach for many years. The challenge of making the road safer for drivers, pedestrians and bikers is complicated by the need to protect the turtles during season. Throw in several stakeholder groups, many with differing opinions on the best solution, and the challenge to make the boulevard safe just seems to grow.

With two months to go before lighting consultant Town Lighting finishes its Estero Boulevard lighting work, its hard to find a single person happy with the work the company has completed so far.

Town Lighting has recommended a dual light, one that’s amber during turtle season at 16,500 Lumens and white during non-turtle season at 17,000 lumens.. The eLuminaire dual source light is not on the FWC certified product list. The initial cost to install the lights on Estero Boulevard is just under $5 million. Additional poles would also need to be installed if this is the chosen option. The consultant says this is the recommended option because of its year-around accommodation of road users, pedestrians, bicyclists and wildlife.

On Monday the Fort Myers Beach Public Safety Committee and the Marine Resources Task Force Committee met jointly to hear from the consultant, which had three people in attendance at the meeting, and several others on video conference. Taxpayers are paying up to $185,000 for Town Lighting to come up with a plan to light up Estero Boulevard. The company was tasked with keeping residents safe and protecting the turtles.

At times yesterday the meeting became confrontational as the two sides went back and forth on white lights, amber lights, lumens, sky glow and other very technical issues. Committee members peppered the consultants with questions and criticisms about their choice of the dual light. MRTF committee member Wendy DeGaetano said the report was confusing and the discrepancies within the report were disturbing. Committee member Mary Rose Spalletta followed that up with “a system with white lights is unwise.”

Public Safety Committee Chairman John Goggin told us the consultants preliminary report and recommendation left several open questions and areas in need of clarification. “These need to be addressed before the report is presented to the council. Bottom line after reviewing the options the consultant presented and listening to the discussion among the committee members and consultant, if I were on council I couldn’t honestly say there is sufficient information or clarity to make an informed decision.”

Marine Resources Talk Force Committee Chairman Steve Johnson added that the consultant needs to seriously tighten up their system specifications and costs. “They are also tasked with providing proof, empirical data / study, that white streetlights are safer than amber. There are many communities and cities that have installed amber roadway lighting. It is not novel. Provide data that shows amber lighting results in more auto/pedestrian/bike accidents than white roadway lighting.”

Town Lighting has until the end of September to complete its work and present it to the town council. Mayor Ray Murphy sat in the audience yesterday and listened to the entire nearly three hour meeting. It’s also important to note that Estero Boulevard is a Lee County road and they will have a say in what’s chosen. To this point they’ve been silent on the issue.

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