Your LA Travel Diva Examiner adores the Florida Keys so much my husband and I flew all the way from Los Angeles to the Key West for wedding anniversaries. Once we rented a vintage convertible, put the top down, blasted oldies but goodies from the radio and tooled down the old highway to the end.
The decadent, sometimes debauched, always balmy, tropical area oozes with excitement and romance. Part Margarita-ville, part resort island, there’s just something about hundreds of people heading to the beach at sunset, drinks in hand, to pay homage to setting orb and cheering as it mixes with the sea and with a green flash.
The only thing your LA Travel Diva Examiner doesn’t like about the Keys, is getting there from LA. It takes one or more connecting flights and then the long drive from either Miami or Ft. Lauderdale airports.
But wait. The ride just got more pleasant with the addition of a $330 million, “18-Mile Stretch,” segment of U.S. Highway 1 between Florida City and Key Largo, that actually required almost seven years to construct.
Officials claim the new road features numerous safety, environmental and aesthetic enhancements for residents and visitors. There’s a concrete median barrier, painted Belize blue as recommended by marine life artist Wyland, stretches almost the entire length of the road and should drastically reduce the number of serious vehicular accidents.
“Number one is safety and we will be able to eliminate 10 to 14 critical accidents a year,” said Gus Pego, FDOT’s District 6 Secretary.
Environmental features include almost 20 culverts and underpasses for animals such as crocodiles and Florida panthers to cross safely under the road. Elimination of a land causeway that once bisected Lake Surprise has restored natural water flow to Florida Bay. Outside shoulders and berms were built to prevent road pollutants from washing into Florida Bay.
The project’s iconic element, the 1.25-mile-long, 65-foot-high Jewfish Creek Bridge, completed in May 2008, has created a more impressive visual driving approach to the Florida Keys.
“The new ‘Stretch’ has completely changed the driving experience into the Florida Keys,” said Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers, who is also a member of the region’s tourism council. “Not only is it much safer, but when you come over the top of the new Jewfish Creek Bridge, the panoramic vista you see takes your breath away.”
I drink a margarita to that!