A new $330 million road connecting the south Florida mainland with the Florida Keys is finished.

The new 18-Mile Stretch, a segment of U.S. Highway 1 between Florida City and Key Largo, required almost seven years to construct. A dedication ceremony marking the end of the project was staged Sept. 28.

Officials said the new road features numerous safety, environmental and aesthetic enhancements for residents and visitors.

A concrete median barrier, painted Belize blue as recommended by marine life artist Wyland, stretches almost the entire length of the road and should drastically reduce the number of serious vehicular accidents.

“Number one is safety and we will be able to eliminate 10 to 14 critical accidents a year,” said Gus Pego, FDOT's District 6 Secretary.

Environmental features include almost 20 culverts and underpasses for animals such as crocodiles and Florida panthers to cross safely under the road. Elimination of a land causeway that once bisected Lake Surprise has restored natural water flow to Florida Bay. Outside shoulders and berms were built to prevent road pollutants from washing into Florida Bay.

The project’s iconic element, the 1.25-mile-long, 65-foot-high Jewfish Creek Bridge, completed in May 2008, has created a more impressive visual driving approach to the Florida Keys.

“The new Stretch has completely changed the driving experience into the Florida Keys,” said Monroe County Mayor Heather Carruthers, who is also a member of the region’s tourism council. “Not only is it much safer, but when you come over the top of the new Jewfish Creek Bridge, the panoramic vista you see takes your breath away.”

http://www.homeandawaymagazine.com/content.cfm?n=1312