No, the bridge isn’t 18-miles long but rather refers to the distance from the beginning of the Keys at Florida City to Key Largo and is simply known as ‘The 18-Mile Stretch’. Growing up as a child and traveling on vacation the road from Florida City to Key West was for the most part 2-lanes, 1 northbound & 1 southbound with no division between them. That all came to an end in 2005 when a 7-year project began to cure some of the ailing problems faced by the existing Keys highway system.
The awesome feat of engineering was a proposed seven-year project that cost a whopping $265 MILLION dollars and set forth in four stages. By far the most obvious stage of the project was the 65-foot high bridge over Jewfish Creek as seen up close in the above photo that re-opened the water passage to Surprise Lake restoring natures flow. Other projects included the entire 18-miles being divided by concrete barriers to prevent head-on collisions. Another stage was widening the 18-miles of the northbound lanes shoulders to accommodate emergency evacuation conditions during severe weather such as hurricanes. And the final stage was devoted entirely to the wildlife which would be fenced off in both directions from crossing the roadway while safely being diverted under the road in strategic positions called box culverts. Believe it or not, several of the projects were ongoing at the same time while NEVER ONCE closing all lanes which is absolutely incredible! The 18-Mile Stretch has since been completed with all the headaches associated now in the past… Thank goodness!
So when you travel this absolutely beautiful stretch of wilderness road called ‘The 18-Mile Stretch’ just think oh let’s say 10 years back when it was in fact a 2-lane multi-directional road with NO lane barriers and NO wildlife fences… for me, that is so very easy to do!