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You Can Help Save a Florida Keys Bridge

What's New — By Julie on March 4, 2011 at 7:28 pm

In an environment of grassroots organizations stemming change across this country, perhaps you’d be interested in following a Florida Keys project that, although seemingly small, has enormous impact.

The Seven Mile Bridge runs parallel to the historic Old Seven Mile Bridge (right)

By now you may have heard – or seen, or read – that the 100th anniversary of Henry Flagler arriving into Key West on his railroad is fast approaching. The $430 million line became known as the Oversea Railway because its track stretched more than 100 miles out into open water. Its bridges and viaducts connecting the Keys, including a nearly seven-mile-long bridge at Marathon in the Middle Keys, were regarded as an engineering marvel.

Yet it is this “Old”  Seven Mile Bridge that organizations in the Florida Keys are trying to maintain and convince the Federal Department of Transportation (FDOT) to abandon its plan to close this historic landmark entirely to enthusiastic bicyclists, pedestrians and history buffs who utilize the 2.2-mile span each day. The FDOT currently is evaluating and ‘reviewing the constructability options at [this] shallow water, environmentally sensitive site.’

The bridge, due to needed repairs, has been closed since 2007 to vehicle traffic for several years now, including Henry, the caboose that used to carry passengers to Pigeon Key from the Knight’s Key area of Marathon. The only approved vehicles allowed on the bridge now are golf carts – two, in fact – used by the sparse staff on Pigeon Key island. We’re not talking a lot of back and forth here.

Since that closure, visitors to Pigeon Key island get to the island by ferry.  And, the bridge span has remained open for folks to walk, fish (in limited areas), cycle across or even roller blade to the island to tour the historic museums, enjoy a picnic lunch or soak in the scenery unparalleled anywhere else in the Keys. It’s an extremely affordable $11 for a half day’s worth of fascinating history, fun facts and sunshine on your face.

Florida East Coast Railway, Key West Extension. Train on the Long Key Viaduct. Photo from the Monroe County Library Collection.

The effort to prevent the FDOT’s closure of the old bridge span is in its infancy – however, with the 100th anniversary of the railroad approaching, what better time to voice your support and keep this historically significant bridge open to enjoy, while allowing it to still receive the needed improvements as a pedestrian attraction?

Bookmark this site:  www.saveoldseven.org and visit often -  there will soon be an online petition to sign and help save the bridge! Share it with your friends, tweet it to your cohorts and let’s get the ball rolling.

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