Twenty-one years after Belle Terre Parkway was widened to four lanes and Palm Coast incorporated as a city, and 140 years after Thomas Edison patented the light bulb, Belle Terre is finally getting lit up: it will no longer be the city’s busiest, darkest nighttime traffic corridor.
You might’ve noticed them this week, on either side of Belle Terre south of Pine Lakes: the men of L&S Lighting, a Florida Power and Light contractor, are planting 4,370-pound, 45-foot concrete poles nine feet into the ground, later attached with 12-foot arms tipped with cobra-head “luminaires” that will light up the road below with LED radiance. There’ll be 213 lights in all, possibly to the chagrin of some homeowners along the way.
Drivers have not been considerate to the light crews. “Everybody’s been driving so crazy, it’s really a shame,” said Justin Feder, a crane operator and foreman with L and S Lighting (and a 2005 graduate of Flagler Palm Coast High School). “We get our cones knocked over every single day.”
The project is not cheap. though Florida Power and Light is carrying some of the construction and maintenance cost, Palm Coast government’s share of the construction for the full portion of Belle Terre from the Parkway to State Road 100 is $99,000, and the city’s recurring costs for electricity will be about $7,000 a month, or $84,000 a year. The city’s current bill for lighting up streets is around $700,000 a year.
The Belle Terre Parkway project is part of the city’s $860,000-plan, launched in 2017, to light up 23 miles of streets in the city over five years and gradually put an end to what had been continuing criticism of the city’s unlit roadways–and the deadly consequences that ensued: three teenagers were killed on darkened streets just between 2011 and 2017–on Seminole Woods Boulevard, on Old Kings Road, on Lakeview Parkway. The last fatality on Belle Terre was at an intersection that has seen its share of catastrophic crashes, at Ponce de Leon, in August 2019, when a motorcyclist was killed in a nighttime wreck there. A 39-year-old woman was killed and six people were injured in a four-vehicle crash on darkened Belle Terre, just north of Whiteview Parkway, in 2012.
The city council in 2004 considered a $730,000 plan to light up Belle Terre, Matanzas Woods Parkway, Old Kings Road, Royal Palms Parkway, Palm Harbor Parkway and Pine Lakes Parkway. In September that year, the council voted against the plan, with Jon Netts, on the council at the time, opposing it because $410,000 of the cost would have gone to decorative lights. He wanted the priority on stormwater projects. The council scaled back the plan–to $250,000, but for decorative lights. Belle Terre Parkway was kept dark.
As of 2017, half the city’s principal streets were unlit. On March 21 that year, the City Council launched its Continuous Roadway Lighting program, starting with the very north of Belle Terre Parkway and Lakeview Boulevard, site of one of the teen fatalities. In September the segment on Belle Terre from Palm Coast Parkway to Pine Lakes Parkway went live. Other lighting plans in the near future include Old Kings Road, Ravenwood Drive and Seminole Woods Boulevard. Belle Terre Boulevard is on the 2022 calendar.
FPL did not say what its portion of the capital costs on belle Terre Parkway are. “I can tell you that the products FPL Lighting Solutions provide has a typical lifespan of 10-20 years, and the service provided includes maintenance and replacements as often as needed,” FPL spokesman Matt Eisely said. sked about an eventual solar-powered lighting program, he said: “At this time, we do not have a solar lighting program, but we are continuously exploring new products to better serve our customers.”