Maybe it’s a good thing Lakewood Ranch supervisors missed the mark on a half-million dollar project to replace street lights along the community’s major streets.
Between March, when supervisors opened and rejected two bids to replace high pressure sodium lamps with LED lighting, and July 27, when a new round of bids are to scheduled to be opened, the American Medical Association issued guidelines for the safe use of light emitting diodes, or LEDs.
Specifically, the AMA said high-intensity LED lighting emits a large amount of blue light that “appears white to the naked eye and creates worse nighttime glare than conventional lighting. Discomfort and disability from intense, blue-rich LED lighting can decrease visual acuity and safety, resulting in concerns and creating a road hazard.”
District 1 Supervisor Gary Berns, who represents the Summerfield-Riverwalk area, brought the study to the attention of his fellow supervisors, and uttered two words rarely heard at local government meetings: “circadian rhythm.”
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Berns wanted supervisors to know that the blue light in some LED lamps can disrupt circadian rhythm, or sleep patterns, of people and animals, and that bidders should be be advised to avoid it.
“Blue-rich LED streetlights operate at a wavelength that most adversely suppresses melatonin during night. It is estimated that white LED lamps have five times greater impact on circadian sleep rhythms than conventional street lamps. Recent large surveys found that brighter residential nighttime lighting is associated with reduced sleep times, dissatisfaction with sleep quality, excessive sleepiness, impaired daytime functioning and obesity,” the AMA said in a June press release.
In addition, “poorly designed LED lighting disorients some bird, insect, turtle and fish species,” the AMA said.
Anne Ross, Town Hall executive director, said bidders have been advised of the new AMA guidelines to use as little blue light as possible.
Originally, the streetlamp replacement project along Lakewood Ranch Boulevard, Greenbrook Boulevard, Summerfield Parkway, Balmoral Woods Boulevard, Arnold Palmer Green, Legacy Boulevard, and The Masters Avenue, was due to be completed in the fiscal 2016 budget year. But the fiscal year ends Sept. 30, and the project could easily slip into the 2017 fiscal year.
It has been estimated that conversion to LED lamps at Lakewood Ranch could save $1.2 million over the life of the project.
Energy savings, maintenance savings and enhanced visibility have been touted as benefits of the conversion.
If the project does slip into a new fiscal year, there will be no change in assessments to residents, said Steve Zielinski, chief financial officer.