Things are looking bright for Main Street and downtown Gainesville.
North 8th Avenue to South Depot Avenue on Main Street is currently under construction for the installment of new light poles and the upgrade of existing ones as part of Phase I of Main Street Streetscape.
This is the first of two phases for the Main Street project, which is trying to improve the safety and look of downtown Gainesville. Phase I, which specifically focuses on the lighting of that entire area, began in August and is expected to be completed by December.
Phase II is set to begin in mid-2014 and will improve Main Street’s landscaping.
“The goal of the project is to give the lighting levels on Main Street a much more uniform luminance,” said Stefan Broadus, project manager and an engineer for Main Street Streetscape.
The project aims to bring Main Street to the necessary standards required by the Florida Department of Transportation on a major roadway, which includes having an average foot candle — a unit of light intensity — of 1.5 and a minimum to maximum light level ratio of 10:1, according to the City Commission’s report.
Thirteen of the 14 blocks between North Eighth Avenue and South Depot Avenue did not meet that criterion, so Broadus brought in a contractor, American Lighting and Signalization, to help meet those standards.
“During design, we came up with the proper lights and the proper spacing to use in the process,” Broadus said. “And we came up with a design in which some blocks have the average lighting level lower than before.”
The proposed improvements include adding up to 24 more pedestrian lights and six more roadway lights while installing LED lights in existing light poles. The city funded the design part of the project, while the Department of Energy funded the actual light construction and installment.
The project cost a total of $853,571.84, with most of the funds invested into the LED lights, according to the City Commission’s report.
LED lights last longer and are brighter than regular lights, and are a long-term investment for Gainesville, said Gina Busscher, public information director for FDOT of District 2, which serves Gainesville.
“It’s important to provide the necessary lighting so people can feel more comfortable,” said Busscher. “Also, crime tends to go down when streets are more lit.”
Main Street currently has pockets of intense light and pockets of complete darkness, Busscher said. The effort in the project design was to make the average maximum light level to minimum light level 10:1.
According to the report, North 4th Avenue to North 6th Avenue have as high a light ratio as 93:1, which shows the lack of consistency through that specific block with bright and dark spots throughout the street.
Kassia Walsh, manager of The Top restaurant located on Main Street, said her customers and employees would both benefit from more lighting in the area.
“In terms of helping customers feel more secure while walking, more lighting will guarantee that,” Walsh said.