The Overseas Highway is an attraction, a lifeline – and sometimes dangerous. Residents hope to improve it

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The Overseas Highway is a National Scenic Highway that spans the Florida Keys for more than 160 km from Key Largo to Key West.

Relying on this route alone can be frustrating and dangerous. An accident can close access to large parts of the island chain, and tourist traffic causes bottlenecks, especially in the Upper Keys.

Now Monroe County has a plan to make this route easier and safer. Nancy Klingener of WLRN spoke with County Commissioner David Rice, who chaired the transportation committee.

The Monroe County commission held a meeting on the plan on November 3.

RICE: I would describe the Overseas Highway, and its role, as anything to everyone. It is our main street in our local communities. It is our long distance transit highway at the same time. It is our lifeline. This is our supply route. The whole of the Keys is oriented around this highway. Because it’s really the only way to get from point A to point B.

WLRN: And what is the purpose of this master plan with one road? You know, we’re not planning to add a lot of alternate lanes or routes, do we?

Law. The county hosted a strategic planning session that involved many town halls along the Keys. And at every meeting, the difficulties with the freeway were either the number one concern or almost the number one concern of the people who attended.

We know we have limits. We can’t do a lot of things that would be done on the mainland to improve circulation. We just don’t have the land mass to do it in every location. But we are determined to examine this highway and put in place measures that can improve both safety and the flow of traffic on the highway.

We’re never going to have a four- or six-lane thoroughfare through the Keys, I don’t believe. But there are things that can be done – sync brake lights, manage crash scenes. The turn lanes, the acceleration lanes are two major ingredients. And I think, especially in the Islamorada area there, they could improve the flow of traffic to some level.

County consultants came up with some sort of ideas like gondolas and tiny little private planes. Have you asked for original ideas and is there a role for them?

We discussed original ideas. An idea is only an idea. And I frankly encourage that sort of thing. It’s pretty easy to say, you know, the time is not right. She’s today’s Studebaker, you know, it was before its time, but it doesn’t hurt to dream. And we all recognize that these options are incredibly expensive, and the time may not have come yet if it ever is. But it doesn’t hurt to plan and think and say, “Well, maybe someday, who knows.”

The master plan is made up of about 170 recommendations, I believe, that could eventually facilitate our circulation. We therefore expect that some of these recommendations will be considered and rejected by the DOT. [the Florida Department of Transportation]. That’s good, because if we come out with a reasonable number of them and the attitude of the DOT, we can make changes that can improve safety and traffic on this highway because we believe it can be. made.

It’s really DOT’s job, isn’t it? It’s their highway.

Well, but this is our home. Obviously, US 1 is a state and federal highway. It goes all the way to Maine, as you well know. But it’s also our main street.

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