Old Florida Keys Bridge reopens to pedestrians and cyclists

MARATHON, Fla. (AP) – A segment of a 110-year-old Florida Keys bridge reopens to pedestrians and cyclists on Wednesday following a $ 44 million restoration project.

Construction on the often-photographed 2.2 mile (3.5 km) span rehabilitation of the Old Seven Mile Bridge began in late 2017.

“What made the project difficult was that it is a historic bridge, and we had to restore the bridge with the same aesthetic fabric as the original,” said project manager Tony Sabbag. , a contractor for the Florida Department of Transportation.

Nicknamed the “Old Seven,” the bridge was completed in 1912 as part of Henry Flagler’s Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad which linked the Keys to each other and to mainland Florida. The span is the gateway to historic Pigeon Key, a small island below that once housed 400 railroad construction workers.

In 1938, the railway bridge was converted to carry automobiles. In 1982, the new Seven Mile Bridge, measuring 10.9 kilometers (6.79 miles), debuted alongside the historic bridge, whose steel swing span that facilitated vessel traffic between the ocean Atlantic and Gulf of Mexico has been removed.

The retired “Old Seven” has become a popular recreation area and has appeared in several films including “True Lies,” a 1994 action comedy starring Arnold Schwarzenegger and Jamie Lee Curtis.

Wednesday’s groundbreaking ceremony late morning will be the culmination of a $ 77 million, 30-year agreement signed in 2013 between Monroe County, the City of Marathon and the Florida Department of Transportation. This agreement funded the restoration and maintenance to preserve the iconic monument listed on the National Register of Historic Places.

“The Old Seven Mile Bridge is important to the Keys, the history of the Keys and an overpass to get to Pigeon Key,” said Monroe County Administrator Roman Gastesi.

Restoration work included repairs to structural steel and the bridge joint system, a new deck, pedestrian and bicycle ramps, and other upgrades.

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