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Blocking 'Bikini Beach'? Keys officials want to screen the view from part of U.S. 1

A shoreline with fence and riprap around Mile marker 109 near Key Largo
Emily Schemper
/
Monroe County
Monroe County Sheriff Rick Ramsay wants to create a 'visual barrier' between U.S. 1 and Barnes Sound, where boaters often draw near to the shore.

The Overseas Highway is an internationally famous route, a ribbon that carries cars and connects islands as it offers unparalleled views of the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico.

Local officials in the Keys, however, would like to block off a quarter-mile section of that view.

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The problem is a section of U.S. 1 at mile marker 109, where the road curves around Barnes Sound north of Key Largo — and in good weather, boats pull up close to shore.

"They call it up there bikini beach and they also call it lookie-loo beach," said Monroe Sheriff Rick Ramsay. "We have people that are in a 55-mile-an-hour zone and are dropping down to 30, 35 miles an hour just for that, to look at the boats and, presumably, the swimmers."

The slowdowns lead to frequent collisions and can cause traffic backups two miles in each direction, Ramsay said. He said he's asked the state Department of Transportation to put up some sort of visual barrier, like buttonwood trees or tennis court fences.

"They acknowledge it's a problem and they acknowledge they themselves have been in the traffic and seen it and know why it's occurring," Ramsay said. "But they're hesitant to do something because it's a scenic highway and they don't want to block off part of a scenic highway."

The Monroe County Commission endorsed Ramsay's request Wednesday. A spokeswoman for DOT District 6 did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

LowerKeysAerial.jpg
Andy Newman
/
Florida Keys News Service
The Overseas Highway, seen here in an aerial shot of the Lower Keys, is an internationally famous route that offers views of the subtropical waters of Keys.

Want to keep up with the latest stories out of the Florida Keys like this one? Sign up for The Tieline, our newsletter focused on all things Keys and Monroe County. The newsletter will arrive in your inbox twice a month and is written and curated by WLRN’s southernmost reporter Nancy Klingener. She shares her reporting, the latest news out of the Keys and much more. Head here to sign up.

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.