Thursday, August 24, 2017

Olde Seven Mile Bridge In The Florida Keys

Update: This bridge is currently closed, and is being repaired by the Florida DOT. As soon as I get exact opening date, I will post it.

CLICK ON PHOTOS TO ENLARGE

Welcome to the Old Seven Mile Bridge. This 2.2 mile section of bridge is rich in history, and extremely important to Florida Keys tourism. The entire Old Seven Mile Bridge was originally constructed as a railroad bridge by Henry Flagler to connect Key West to the mainland. Construction started in 1908, and was completed in 1912. This bridge was originally known as the Knights Key-Pigeon Key-Moser Channel-Pacet Channel Bridge. Henry Flagler, whose railroads and lavish hotels helped open Florida's coast to development and tourism, began building the Overseas Railway in 1904. The Key West Extension of the Florida East Coast Railway cost him an estimated $50 million. About 200 men died building the line, most during a 1906 hurricane. The extension was finished in 1912, stretching 128 miles from Homestead to Key West. It included 42 bridges over 18 miles of ocean.



The Labor Day hurricane of 1935, a storm with winds well in excess of 200 miles an hour, damaged 42 miles of track. With the Great Depression, the Florida East Coast Railway in bankruptcy receivership and the growing popularity of cars, the company decided not to repair it. The railroad right-of-way was sold to the state for $600,000. The state later widened the old Seven Mile Bridge, paved over the tracks and opened the Overseas Highway in 1935, and closed it in 1982 after construction of a new bridge. This is the only section of the original bridge open to the public (foot and bicycle traffic only). This connects Marathon to Pigeon Key (a tiny island at the south end). The other original bridge sections have been closed since 1982.

This bridge portion has been deteriorating for decades. A group called 'The Friends of Old Seven' has lead an effort to save and preserve this historic Middle Keys landmark. Through lots of hard work on their part and many others, an agreement was struck in 2013 between Monroe County, the city of Marathon, and the Florida Department of Transportation to save this portion of the historic Old Seven Mile Bridge. In December 2013, an agreement was reached between Monroe County, the city of Marathon and the state Department of Transportation to upgrade the bridge. The Monroe County Commission gave final approval to the $77.5 million spending plan to repair the bridge. The Marathon City Council voiced unanimous support for the plan. The construction dates to start working here will be March 2016 and end September 2017. During that time the bridge will be completely closed.

My first biking adventure here was on 9-20-11, and my second was 11-12-14. Bicycling on this historic structure was beyond thrilling. And the view all around is spectacular. Especially at the very end. Many people visit this bridge daily. And locals routinely walk here early mornings, usually between 7-9am. Also keep in mind recording video with a camera attached to your handlebars while biking the bridge simply would be a bad idea. There are too many creases in the pavement making it too bumpy. Just a suggestion.






8 comments:

  1. This was just reported in a local newspaper.

    FDOT has yet to start work on the Old Seven Mile Bridge. Completion still 4 YEARS AWAY!
    The agency is still doing work at the foot of the bridge on Knights Key to make it more ADA compliant. That work should be completed within the next month, Summers said. Work on the old bridge itself will begin in November and could take nearly four years to complete, according to the FDOT. The bridge work is limited from Knights Key to Pigeon Key, not the entire span of the Old Seven Mile Bridge.

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    1. Thank you very much for the update here. I appreciate it.

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  2. The article says that the old section was closed due to the opening of the new bridge. That's sort of true. What happened was there was a short section of drawbridge on the old bridge. A big flatbed truck with a backhoe on it struck an overhead beam on the drawbridge, the backhoe came off the truck and the shovel struck a large natural gas tank used to power the drawbridge. The resultant explosion killed one worker on the bridge and damaged the old bridge even further. THAT'S why they closed it, that and the new bridge was very close to completion.

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    1. Thank you for the info Roger. I appreciate it.

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  3. Are there any plans to incorporate the old bridge into the bike route instead of using the new 7-mile bridge. The videos i have seen of cyclists on that bridge are scary. Thanks and very informative site here.

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    1. Chris: I would say no to your question. But I think it's so cool to be able to bicycle so far out where the Atlantic Ocean and Gulf of Mexico meet. And thanks for the nice words about my blog. You are very kind. Where exactly do you live at?

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  4. Hello Charles. I live in Southern Maine and am planning a bike trip to the Keys in February, 2018. My plan is to fly to Ft Lauderdale and bike to Key West and then take the Ferry to Ft. Myers and fly home from Punta Gorda. It has been on my list for many years and finally looks like it is going to happen.

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    1. Chris: Your trip sounds like a good one. No question all of the Florida Keys is an incredible destination. Enjoy and stay safe.

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