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The second-longest bridge on the Overseas Highway is set to be replaced by a new third span

A photo of the long key bridge, on the left, and the original Long Key viaduct on the right.
Sanibel Sun
Wikimedia Commons
The Long Key Bridge, left, opened in 1982. The original railroad bridge, on the right, is now part of the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail.

Building the original Overseas Railway bridges, that connect the Keys, was an epic project in the early 20th century. After the 1935 hurricane, those bridges served another 50 years as the first Overseas Highway before they were replaced. Now, the Keys could see a third set of spans connecting the islands.

The state Department of Transportation is planning to replace the Long Key Bridge, the second-longest in the Keys after the Seven Mile Bridge.

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It's officially named the Dante B. Fascell Bridge after the late congressman who represented the Keys in Washington for decades. It opened in 1982, one of the final stages in the replacement of the old bridges built by Henry Flagler's Overseas Railway.

"The life cycle rehabilitation of that current structure really becomes cost-prohibitive over time. So it makes sense to go in there and actually replace that structure with a structure that will last us the 50 years we're seeking," said Daniel Iglesias, director of transportation systems development for DOT's District 6, which includes Miami-Dade and Monroe counties.

Iglesias said the fate of the current bridge, once the new one is built, is still unknown.

"It's way too soon," he said. "We have to see where the new alignment will go and what, if anything can be done with the current structure."

The original Long Key Viaduct, built for the railroad, still stands and is now a fishing pier and part of the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail, a state park.

DOT officials said they plan to start a project development and environment study next year, including public meetings in the Keys. Construction is scheduled to begin in 2027 at an estimated cost of $178 million.

Two shorter bridges on Card Sound Road at Tubby's Creek and Mosquito Creek are also planned for replacement in 2025, at a cost of $2.8 million each.

a vintage postcard shows a train crossing the Long Key Viaduct with a boat passing by underneath.
Monroe County Public Library
The Long Key Viaduct was often used in promotional images for Henry Flagler's Overseas Railroad.

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Nancy Klingener was WLRN's Florida Keys reporter until July 2022.
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