Florida Keys / Historic

Saving the Old Seven Mile Bridge: $77 million plan approved to restore historic bridge

Photo by jbaccile via Flickr

Pigeon Key and Old Seven Mile Bridge. Photo by jbaccile via Flickr

Few places capture Florida history, natural beauty and recreational bounty like the Old Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys.

If you arrived in Florida before 1982, this was THE Seven Mile Bridge and driving the narrow two lane bridge was a white-knuckle experience. Today, there’s a sleek new bridge and you can access only a 2.2 mile section of the historic one – and even that was getting so decrepit that it was closed to not only cars but even to fishermen. Folks who cared about the bridge predicted that, without repairs, the bridge would soon be closed to all.

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Old Seven Mile Bridge

1920 postcard of Old Seven Mile Bridge. (Courtesy Florida Memory Project)

It is good news indeed, then, that in March 2014, various levels of government came together to fund a major restoration project for Florida’s beloved Old Seven.

The deal was years in the making and only approved after a citizen organization formed to speak up for the Old Seven Mile Bridge.

Under the plan, the county, the City of Marathon and the Florida Department of Transportation all contribute. FDOT pays $57 million over a 30-year period;  Monroe County pays  $14 million and the City of Marathon pays $5 million. When the bridge is refurbished, it will be able to hold 17-ton vehicles.

The first phase of the project begins July 5, 2016. The Old Seven Mile Bridge will be closed for repairs from July 5  to roughly April 2017. This $2 million project will create a handicapped-accessible walkway from the old bridge under the new bridge to the ocean side. It will include adding picnic pavilions and scenic overlooks.

Additional construction take two or three years to complete. View a summary presentation of these plans and a short-to-medium-term timeline, as proposed by FDOT.

Here’s a Florida Rambler story on the Old Seven Mile Bridge, including some history. (The bridge was the original railroad bridge Henry Flagler built as part of his ill-fated Florida Overseas Railroad.)

One of our favorite Keys outings is to visit Pigeon Key, the island where workers lived while they built the Old Seven Mile Bridge.  You visit the island, which was in the middle of the Old Seven Mile Bridge, by boat and tour the historic buildings. It’s a spectacular little island with a story to tell. Here’s a Florida Rambler guide to visiting Pigeon Key.

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