By ELAINE GLUSAC
The New York Times
In Transit – A Guide to Intelligent Travel
April 3, 2014
The Old Seven Mile Bridge in the Florida Keys.
In the Florida Keys, the Old Seven Mile Bridge has been given new life in the form of a $77 million restoration program, approved in late March.
The old bridge, now closed to motorized traffic, dates back to 1912 when railroad magnate Henry Flagler built it as part of the Florida Keys Over-Sea Railroad, which ran from the southern tip of mainland Florida down to Key West.
It was converted as a roadway for auto traffic in 1938 and subsequently replaced by a new, parallel span in 1982, leaving the old bridge to fishermen, bird watchers, strollers and bike riders.
But the South Florida climate, including hurricanes, has hastened the decay of “Old 7,” as it is called by at least one preservation group that took inspiration from the success of New York’s High Line park.
“I saw our guiding light in the High Line and the walkways over the Hudson,” said Bernard Spinrad, board president of the nonprofit foundation Friends of Old Seven. “I thought basically our role should be not only to restore Old Seven Mile Bridge, but make it a world-class attraction.”
The project, expected to start in about two years, will largely be funded by the Florida Department of Transportation with contributions from Monroe County and the City of Marathon.
Despite its name, Old Seven Mile Bridge runs 2.2 miles from Marathon to five-acre Pigeon Key, an original work camp for railroad construction crews.
The discontinuous remainder, long closed, has been left to decay.