Driving Across Seven Mile Bridge - Orlando / Florida Guide
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Although we had heard of the Seven Mile Bridge, which links the small islands of the Keys like a necklace of pearls, we were quite bowled over when we actually drove over it. It is truly spectacular, and if you have time to drive all the way down to the Keys then it is well worth doing so. The bridge itself, which is situated in Monroe County, separates the Gulf of Mexico and the Florida Strait. It connects Knight’s Key in the Middle Keys to Little Duck Key in the Lower Keys. At the time of its construction it was one of the longest bridges in the world. Should you want to visit the Keys then you will need to take the South Dixie Highway, or US Highway 1 as it is also known, from Miami. The southernmost part of US Highway 1 is known as the Overseas Highway, or the Highway That Goes to Sea.
Seven Mile Bridge has become quite famous, being the location for several major movies, including the James Bond film, Licence to Kill, Up Close and Personal, and True Lies. It is also used each April for the Seven Mile Bridge Run, a fun run for 1500 runners. It should be possible to drive from Miami to the Keys in about four hours, but do take time to stop off on the way and admire the scenery, and the natural beauty of this area. There are lots of little hidden beaches on the way, and it is glorious to paddle in the warm water on the soft sandy beaches. Sunsets are particularly spectacular, so tarry a while and soak up the ever changing scenery.
There are actually two bridges, and the original was constructed by Henry Flagler, that pioneer of the Florida East Coast Railroad, whose railroad linked Miami to Key West in 1912. This bridge was called the Knights Key-Pigeon Key-Moser Channel-Pacet Channel Bridge – quite a mouthful. It had a swing span that could be opened in order to allow boats passage near where the bridge crosses Pigeon Key. It was here that Henry Flager had a work camp on an island which housed his railroad workers. Unfortunately, the railway ceased operation following severe damage to the bridge’s infrastructure, during the 1935 hurricane, and the Federal Government then began its refurbishment as a road bridge. Construction on this highway began in the late 1930s, using some of the original railway spans in its foundations, as well as the coral bedrock.
It was finally completed in 1938, enabling motorists to travel 113 miles from Miami to the southernmost point of Key West, crossing 42 bridges on the way. The present road bridge was constructed between 1948 and 1982, when Seven Mile Bridge and 36 others were widened. You can still see most of the original bridge as it runs parallel to the new Seven Mile Bridge, and is used as fishing piers and access to Pigeon Key. This new bridge is actually 6. 79 miles long, and was built using a box-girder construction, with pre-cast concrete sections. There are 440 spans and right at its centre the road rises in a beautiful arc, which provides clearance of 65 ft for boats. It is an amazing sight to drive over this section of the bridge as the road rises in front of you and the panorama is stunning.
When we drove down to the Keys we made several stops. The road itself is narrow once you enter the Keys, with single lane traffic and speed limits which make it impossible to go very fast. It does get very busy at peak times with long traffic jams, but take your time and enjoy the amazing experience of driving over the Seven Mile Bridge.
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