Florida Keys

A major bridge in the Keys will be closed for four hours a day. Traffic backups likely.

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The Florida Keys are famous for beaches, fishing and great weather. Here's what you need to know about one of the country's top tourism destination.
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The Florida Keys are famous for beaches, fishing and great weather. Here's what you need to know about one of the country's top tourism destination.

The Florida Department of Transportation is planning to close a major Florida Keys bridge for four hours a day for 12 days in September, which could snarl traffic on the island chain’s only major roadway.

The closure of the Snake Creek Bridge, a bascule drawbridge at mile marker 85 on U.S. 1 in Islamorada, is scheduled to take place on 12 different nights between Sept. 8 and Sept. 30 so crews can sandblast and repaint the span.

The 65-foot tall bridge already causes traffic backups when it opens on the hour during peak driving time between 7 a.m. and 6 p.m., especially on the weekends. So, Keys officials are worried about the impact it will have on traffic when it’s closed for four hours.

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The U.S. Coast Guard, which controls when the bridge opens, originally told FDOT and Village of Islamorada officials that the bridge must be able to open for large vessel traffic at 3 a.m., so the agency insisted the closure time be between 10:30 p.m. and 2:30 a.m., according to an email sent by Islamorada Village Manager Seth Lawless Monday afternoon to the five members of the Village Council.

That window of time would “greatly expand the inconvenience,” Lawless wrote in his message to local lawmakers.

However, after the email was sent out, the Coast Guard agreed to the midnight-to-4 a.m. time frame, Village Councilman Mike Forster said.

FDOT officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay, a frequent critic of FDOT policy in the Keys, issued a statement Tuesday afternoon blasting the agency’s decision to close the bridge.

“I have expressed my disappointment and concern with FDOT on this project and the massive inconvenience this will be for motorists on U.S. 1, as well as workers, delivery truck drivers and all the people who work or drive on U.S. 1 at night,” Ramsay said.

David Goodhue covers the Florida Keys and South Florida for FLKeysNews.com and the Miami Herald. Before joining the Herald, he covered Congress, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Energy in Washington, D.C. He is a graduate of the University of Delaware.
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