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The smaller, older bridges on one Keys island are causing big problems for residents

A man stands on his balcony overlooking the bridge under repair behind him.
Nancy Klingener
Ron Oestreicher is president of the Duck Key Property Owners Association. The bridge behind him, which you need to cross to reach his house, is limited to 8,000 pounds.

The Florida Keys are famous for their bridges — mostly the ones on the Overseas Highway. But some smaller, older bridges on one island are causing headaches for the residents.

Duck Key, at mile marker 61 on the Overseas Highway, is actually not one island. It's five islands, divided by canals. So getting around on Duck Key means crossing bridges.

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Those bridges were built in the 1950s. They're narrow, and they don't have paths for pedestrians.

The county started planning to upgrade or replace those bridges in 2017. Then Hurricane Irma came along and caused a two-year delay.

When the county started working on the project again, they did inspections.

"And they went from no weight limits on the bridges to very restricted weight limits on the bridges, overnight," said Ron Oestreicher, president of the Duck Key Property Owners Association.

The island where he lives — and where he is in the middle of renovating a house — is connected by a bridge that is now limited to 4 tons, or 8,000 pounds.

"Basically, a pickup truck could go over the bridge," said Oestreicher.

That means, for a year now, there's been no garbage pickup where he lives. People have to drive their trash and recycling out to central collection areas.

And that's not the only hassle.

"People that have sold their house cannot get a moving company to come and pack their house up. And if you bought a house, you can't move into the island," he said.

The only way to move or receive heavy goods is by loading them onto a pickup truck or trailer, one at a time. That's how Oestreicher got new appliances. And, he says, it's expensive.

The county is now posting regular updates on the bridge repairs and replacements on its website. And it's considering making arrangements for barges to make major deliveries that can't go over the bridges.

Oestreicher says that won't work for everyone. And he says he's given up on believing the county's timeline for repairing the old bridges, much less replacing them — which is the ultimate plan.

According to the county, it is spending $1.6 million on repairs to the Harbour and Seaview drive bridges and plans to spend $4 million to replace each of them. That work is scheduled to begin in a little over a year, and take 16 to 18 months.

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Nancy Klingener covers the Florida Keys for WLRN. Since moving to South Florida in 1989, she has worked for the Miami Herald, Solares Hill newspaper and the Monroe County Public Library.