Environmental Review Toolkit
Water, Wetlands, and Wildlife

Florida: The Coastal Roadway Environmentally Sensitive Lighting Initiative

The Coastal Roadway Environmentally Sensitive Lighting Initiative, a long-term initiative championed by the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT), incorporates years of research to develop roadway lighting designs that reduce or eliminate impacts to sea turtles and their nesting areas in coastal locations. As roadway lighting often interferes with sea turtle nesting grounds, photopollution can severely harm the breeding success of this species. As part of the initiative, FDOT supports projects, studies, and design research to mitigate the impacts of artificial lighting structures on sea turtles and their nesting sites.

Sea turtle nesting and hatching activities usually occur at night. In areas impacted by roadway lighting and other urban development, hatchlings can become disoriented and move toward inland lights instead of toward the ocean. As hatchlings instinctively move toward the brightest areas on the horizon anticipating to find open water, artificial lighting misguides and disorients them. This lure often results in predation, dehydration, or death.

FDOT has worked continuously since 2000 to support alternative methods of roadway lighting design to support sea turtle nesting and hatching. Representatives from the agency frequently participate in conferences, contribute to studies, and research new measures. An embedded roadway lighting design implemented by FDOT in 2001 along State Road A1A (SR A1A) in Boca Raton, Florida, demonstrated significant success and later led to additional applications of the design along further portions of the route. The embedded roadway lighting system was awarded the Engineering Excellence Award by the Florida Institute of Consulting Engineers, and the American Council of Engineering Companies. Another component of the lighting initiative was a street light retrofit in Broward County, Florida, in which FDOT retrofitted existing lighting structures rather than replacing them. This cost-effective strategy earned FDOT recognition from the State of Florida Prudential-Davis Productivity Awards Program.

FDOT continues to support roadway lighting design initiatives. The agency recently completed a technical report that details lighting design standards for roads close to ecologically-sensitive areas. Additionally, FDOT prepared a complementary guidebook to promote public understanding of the impacts artificial lighting can have on sea turtle nesting beaches and other light-sensitive habitats.

For more information, contact Ann Broadwell, Florida Department of Transportation – District 4, at Ann.Broadwell@dot.state.fl.us.

Photograph of the 2008 Broward County, Florida Sea Turtle Friendly Lighting Team standing below a large 'Turtle Nesting Beach | SR A1A | Street Lights Off/Reduced | Mar thru Oct | Sea Turtle Hotline | 954-328-0580' caution sign on a sunny day

Figure 1: FDOT's team has long supported sea turtle-friendly lighting initiatives.
Source: Florida Department of Transportation

Photograph at night of a highway with illuminated embedded roadway lighting and a 'Sea Turtle Area Lighting Project; Next 1/2 Mile' caution sign on the right highway shoulder

Figure 2: Embedded roadway lighting in Boca Raton, FL.
Source: Florida Department of Transportation

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