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Author Topic: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway  (Read 7617 times)

Max Rockatansky

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Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« on: May 20, 2017, 10:39:26 AM »

I've been wanting to hit on this for a long time and this recent trip really has given me an opportunity to go back and get some better pictures from the original Overseas Highway alignment prior to US 1.  Between 1928 until US 1 was opened in 1938 there was State Road 4a which essentially was the first highway routing to the mainland from Key West.  The route was substantially different than modern US 1 and included a long Ferry Gap from No Name Key to Lower Matecumbe Key.  I plan on adding pictures to this thread as I go and captioning my Flickr Album, but what I have so far can be viewed here:

https://www.flickr.com/gp/151828809@N08/26G5H7

With that all said I'll touch on the history about the highway including the original plans to bridge the gap before the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane.  For now I prepared maps of 4a in the Lower Keys to show the difference between the Overseas Railroad right-of-way used by modern US 1.  For a time even US 1 used the 4a alignment in the Lower Keys from Big Pine to Stock Island:

1StockIslandtoBocaChica by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

-  Starting with Stock Island 4a would have split away from the railroad on MacDonald and Maloney Avenue.  4a went through the site of a current marina over Boca Chica Channel to Boca Chica Key.  On Boca Chica most of the alignment of 4a ran on the Atlantic side of the Island and has been washed away west of the runway at NAS Key West.  There is stray remains of power lines and even a shanty town. 

2BocaChicatoGeigertoSugarloaf by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

-  The portion of 4a on Geiger Key can still be driven today on Boca Chica Road and passes a former Hawk Missile site which can be seen from the road.  There was a small realignment of Geiger Road which has been razed through NAS Key West property but otherwise it goes to the former piling to the Bird Key/Saddlebunch Harbor bridge which would have connected to Sugarloaf Key.  Most of the alignment of 4a on Sugarloaf shown above still exists and can be walked through the National Key Deer Refuge.

3Sugarloaf1 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

The map above shows the section of 4a that is still maintained by Monroe County on Sugarloaf Key and the two points where maintenance ends.  Interestingly the Sugarloaf Creek Bridge had a date stamp of 1968 on it which probably means the road was a maintained highway much longer than I originally anticipated.  The gate and roadway to the Jumping Bridge is a somewhat popular location due to the deep cut channel that it crosses.

4Sugarloaf by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

The map above shows 4a snaking up Sugarloaf Key back towards the railroad.  The Tarpon Creek Bridge is on a section of unmaintained road and still exists in some capacity with burnt up pilings.  I have pictures of the piling from a couple years back and the roadway which is in very poor condition.

5SugarloaftoCudjoetoSummerland by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

The map above shows where 4a crossed over the Overseas Railroad on Sugarloaf Key at the current site of Mangrove Mama's.  I'm not clear if the current building was the Flagler Rail Depot but I do know for sure that there was a depot located there at one point.  The back of the parking lot has the approach to Bow Channel Bridge to Cudjoe Key.  4a on Cudjoe is still partially used as an actual road but is largely complete as a recently repaved bike path.  The bridge approach to Summerland Key basically overgrown but it can be seen from the modern US 1 bridge.

6SummerlandtoRamrodtoMiddleTorchtoLittleTorch by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Most of 4a on Summerland Key is gone aside from the east side of the island where it is now Center Street.  The Niles Channel Bridge approach is very evident on Summerland Key but not so much from Ramrod.  Essentially all of 4a is now used a local road on Ramrod but the two bridges to Little Torch are overgrown.  There is a large strip of asphalt that can be seen approaching Torch Ramrod Channel from US 1 on Middle Torch Key.  On little Torch 4a split north from the railroad towards No Name Key while the latter continued the modern alignment towards Bahia Honda Key and the Seven Mile Bridge.

7LittleTorchtoBigPinetoNoNameKeyFerry by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Above 4a can be seen crossing Pine Channel and using Watson Blvd on Big Pine Key to approach No Name Key.  The ferry from Lower Matecumbe Key would land at the end of the road and that is why the No Name Pub is located where it is.  Apparently the place used to be a lodge and brothel when 4a was in use as the actual highway which would have essentially been located in no man's land for the time.

I'll keep adding to this thread over the next couple weeks.  This will be pretty substantial compared to most former highway alignment threads I've done since there is major shifts in the Middle and Upper Keys.

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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #1 on: May 20, 2017, 06:56:50 PM »

Before I really go on with the alignment history of State Road 4a I should point out the website I mostly used for my reference research at Keyshistory.org:

http://www.keyshistory.org/osh.html


Really the article above goes into pretty much everything from the very origins of the Key Largo Road, to 4a, the Overseas Railroad, and modern US 1.  Basically it goes into way more detail than I ever could or would really want to on a web forum.  So if you are interested into the Overseas Highway in any capacity it is a good read.

Keeping things on the Lower Keys for now the only alignment I didn't really go out and get pictues of was on Stock Island.  But this junction of US 1 and MacDonald Avenue is where 4a would have met the Overseas Railroad.  The Overseas Railroad would continue straight ahead into Key West while 4a would come in from the left.  I'm honestly not sure if 4a went into the city of Key Wets itself:

IMG_8827 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

I'm also fairly certain that almost all the original highway bridges on 4a in the Lower Keys were wooded.  I that theory off some pictures I actually saw on Keyshistory.org and the fact that there is almost no evidence of pilings I could find aside from the Tarpon Creek Bridge. 

With that in mind the alignment of 4a gets way more interesting on Boca Chica starting from the Shanty Town I listed in the first post:

IMG_8812 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8811 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Apparently there was something going on with a naked dude running around on the washed out highway.  That being the case I asked the Monroe County Deputies when the Shanty Town was built which just so happened to be 4-5 years ago.  Apparently the guy who built it actually actually died but somehow the structure still remains.  The really interesting thing is that the beach front in the photo above was the actual highway but the asphalt has long since washed into the Atlantic Ocean west of the NAS Key West runway.  The only evidence anything was actually there past the runway is the powerlines.

Looking east next to the runway the asphalt is present but is being slowly consumed by plants and the ocean:

IMG_8815 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Looking back west the wash out of old 4a is much more evident:

IMG_8809 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

And looking back west just to the east of the runway reveals the current state of the remaining asphalt:

IMG_8805 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8803 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8800 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Continuing east of the NAS Key West runway there is a small bridge along with the Hawk Missile Battery dating back from the Cuban Missile Crisis I mentioned earlier:

IMG_8817 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8818 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #2 on: May 20, 2017, 07:04:45 PM »

Continuing east there is the razed direct path in Geiger Road I mentioned that was torn up and on NAS Key West property.  To reach Geiger Road now you need to stay on Boca Chica Road on the left whereas you used to be able to continue straight.  The Bridge to Bird Key and Sugarloaf Key was located beyond just out of frame:

IMG_8822 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

On Map 3 in the first post the eastern gate I mentioned facing towards the Jumping Bridge is located here:

IMG_8773 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

With a long stretch of abandoned roadway up ahead:

IMG_8774 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

This time I didn't go all the way to the Jumping Bridge but I have before:

15Sugarloaf by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Looking back west past the Jumping Bridge Gate the alignment on 4a is much more intact:

IMG_8777 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8778 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

The County keeps the speed limit low I think to deter people from using the old highway since people still live on it on Sugarloaf.  Really there isn't much of a reason to have the speed so slow otherwise.  Pretty soon up ahead is the bridge over Sugarloaf Creek which was constructed in 1968:

IMG_8779 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8780 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

The road become unmaintained approaching the National Key Deer Refuge and the Saddlebunch/Bird Key bridge location:

IMG_8783 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8784 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #3 on: May 20, 2017, 07:11:28 PM »

Continuing onto Maps 4 and 5 from Reply #1 you can see the old asphalt snaking behind Mangrove Mama's approaching where the bridge to Cudjoe Key used to be:

IMG_8755 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Looking back westbound you can see Mangrove Mama's and where 4a would have crossed the Overseas Railroad:

IMG_8757 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

The crossing would have been here looking ahead towards where the Mustang is on what is now signed as State Road 939B:

IMG_8758 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8772 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

The roadway is maintained until the Pirate's Cove Resort where there is signage prohibiting vehicles:

IMG_8762 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

At first it doesn't seem too bad:

IMG_8763 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

But then you approach the over 1 foot deep pot holes:

IMG_8764 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Interestingly there are in fact Key Deer on Sugarloaf Key now.  I know this because I ran into one driking out of the pot hole before it ran back into the trees.  Its a pretty long empty run to the Tarpon Creek Bridge:

IMG_8769 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Which I didn't capture on this trip because I was getting heat stoke from all the running I had done up to that point.  I have captured the Tarpon Creek Brdge previous:

17Sugarloaf by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Apparently the Tarpon Creek Bridge is called the "Burnt Bridge" because someone actually deliberately burned it according to local lore.  The bridge has some remaining wooden pilings so I have to imagine it was original to the 1928 highway.
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #4 on: May 20, 2017, 07:17:32 PM »

Starting from the east heading back west on Cudjoe Key the alignment of 4a is directly north of US 1.  The alignment is really easy to find as it is now a bike path and partially a local roadway:

IMG_8750 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8752 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

And you can see the abandoned portion facing Sugarloaf Key here facing west:

IMG_8754 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

I used to run on 4a from Sugarloaf to Ramrod Key years ago so it was interesting to see it paved again.  It used to be a layer of dirt covering asphalt to be specific on Cudjoe Key.

Summerland Key on the other hand is much more ground up.  Looking east towards Ramroad on Central Street the road is intact but looking back west it disappears into the brush:

IMG_8746 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8747 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

All of what I described above can be seen on Map 6 in Reply # 1.  On Ramrod the alignment is much more intact and took the photos below heading westbound on the island:

IMG_8736 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8738 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8739 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #5 on: May 20, 2017, 07:25:54 PM »

On Maps 5 and 6 the alignment on Little Torch Key can be seen.  First starting where the bridge over Pine Channel was I drove back facing southbound:

IMG_8730 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8731 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8732 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

I actually found this interesting sign looking back northward:

IMG_8733 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Up ahead is US 1 where 4a would have met the Overseas Railroad.  You can see a dirt patch on the right where the western approach to Middle Torch Key used to be:

IMG_8735 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Continuing over to No Name Key and Big Pine I'll start all the way east on Map 7 at the No Name Ferry Location:

IMG_8715 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Looking forward westbound is the approach to the Bogie Channel Bridge which is actually fairly modern in design:

IMG_8717 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

There is some interesting signage to be found looking east letting you know you have arrived on No Name Key:

IMG_8712 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

With some interesting views from the bridge first looking east onto No Name Key and back West towards Big Pine Key:

IMG_8701 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8710 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #6 on: May 20, 2017, 07:30:36 PM »

Continuing west on 4a along Watson Blvd on Big Pine Key you come up to the No Name Pub and you'll likely run into Key Deer which are minature White Tail Deer that are native the Lower Keys:

IMG_8697 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8696 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Heading west 4a zigs around a little bit through neighborhoods on Watson Blvd:

IMG_8720 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8721 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8722 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

From here on it is a straight shot west to where the bridge over Pine Channel to Little Torch Key was:

IMG_8723 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

So like I said the alignment of Florida State Road 4a was substantially different, especially in the Lower Keys.  I'm going to be working on Bahia Honda Key next which would be just the Overseas Railroad and US 1.  4a would have taken a ferry route from No Name Key up to Lower Matecumbe in the Upper Keys.  That alignment is pretty interesting because a lot of it either a frontage road of US 1 or is part of the four lane section from Tavenier to Key Largo.
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #7 on: May 27, 2017, 11:59:26 AM »

Finally got some time to finish up this thread.  Figured I would take a slight divergence with 4a to touch on the Bahia Honda Bridge which was replaced in the 1970s.  Out of all the old Overseas Railroad Bridges this was the most unique because of the truss design that was used over 24 foot deep channel between Bahia Honda Key and Spanish Harbor Key.  That being the case this is what the railroad alignment and the original alignment of US 1 would have looked like:

8BahiaHondaKey by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Traveling west the Railroad would have diverged from US 1 at the entrance to Bahia Honda State Park roughly:

IMG_8650 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Interestingly the park road in Bahia Honda State Park was built directly on the Overseas Railroad alignment is a preserved section of the original US 1 alignment:

IMG_8652 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

The Old Bahia Bridge can't be reached from a car in any direction anymore but you can infer a lot from looking at it westbound.  The road deck for US 1 was placed on top of the bridge while trains would have gone straight through the center of the truss structure.  The center span is gapped on both sides:

IMG_8663 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Below the bridge the additional structural members used to put the road deck on top are easily observed:

IMG_8669 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Bahia Honda actually has a walking path on the old Rail/US 1 alignment up the western approach of the Old Bahia Honda Bridge:

IMG_8679 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8681 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8682 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Unfortunately you can't get as close to the central span as you once could:

IMG_8684 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Hell of a view from the bridge back down to the beach and modern Bahia Honda Bridge.  Incidentally conjecture has it that the double two-lane at Bahia Bridge is a trace leftover of a much more grand plan to have a full expressway from Florida City to Key West:

IMG_8685 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Fortunately I do have older pictures from the Bahia Honda Key side of the central span of the Old Bahia Honda Bridge:

10200213192045084 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

I would have loved to stop at Spanish Harbor Key but an FHP trooper was at the end of the modern bridge which really made the illegal left turn not worth it.  I have some older pictures though looking back east at the central span:

4397776635156 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

I have no idea what this building was for but it looks cool:

4397776235146 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #8 on: May 27, 2017, 12:58:01 PM »

Back onto 4a with the Lower Matecumbe Ferry and abandoned Veterans Key Bridge.  When the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane hit the Florida Keys there was a new highway bridge from Lower Matecumbe Key that would have used Veterans Key to cross west to Fiesta Key.  There is actual concrete pilings of said bridge that are apparent in the water west of Veterans Key.  The map below shows projected alignment of the Veterans Key Bridge, the remaining pilings, and the approximate location of the Lower Matecumbe/No Name Key Ferry:

9VeteransKey by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Here is a picture of the Veterans Key Bridge pilings:

IMG_8573 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

The Veterans Key bridge would have come in from the right and met the Overseas Railroad ahead at Fiesta Key:

IMG_8578 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Of course if you know your history of the Keys or the Overseas Highway then you know that Veterans Key was named after the highway workers who were WWI Veterans that were killed during the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane.  Kind of a grim note but really the sad thing is that a lot of people were killed down on those islands trying to build a complete highway.

In the Upper Keys the alignment of 4a largely is still intact.  On Lower Matecumbe Key 4a ran north of the Overseas Railroad and largely exists as a bike path/neighborhood road.

10LowerMatecumbe1 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

11LowerMatecumbe2 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Over the Indian Key and Tea Table Key Channels 4a continued to run north of the Overseas Railroad to Upper Matecumbe Key.  The sections here are largely probably in what is a pretty close analog to the original dirt/crushed shell surface that would have been present in the 1920s/30:

12IndianKeyandTeaTableChannels by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

On Upper Matecumbe Key 4a would have crossed over to the south side the Overseas Railroad and followed CR 905 through what is now local roads in Islamorada.  In downtown Islamorada there is a Hurricane Monument for the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane:

13UpperMatecumbeKey1 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_8553 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

The rest of 4a on Upper Matecumbe Key is shown here:

14UpperMatecumbeKey by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

CR 905 begins at Hammock Road, I outlined it on the map above:

IMG_8551 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #9 on: May 27, 2017, 01:44:15 PM »

4a on Windley Key as a local road.  Incidentally if you look close in the channels you can see the old bridge approaches for 4a are still present on almost every Key:

15WindleyKey by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Plantation Key is much of the same with 4a running as a local road.  The alignment of 4a becomes the northbound lanes of the divided modern US 1 up to Card Sound Road while the Railroad Alignment is the southbound lanes:

16PlantationKey by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

17PlantationKey2 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

18PlantationtoTavenier by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Which makes things much more straight forward up to Key Largo to the split with 4a on Card Sound Road and the Overseas Railroad on the 18 Mile Stretch:

19UpperKeys1 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

20UpperKeys2 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

21UpperKeys3 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

22UpperKeys4 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Today the split for Card Sound Road looks like this:

IMG_8999 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

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kurumi

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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #10 on: May 27, 2017, 01:58:18 PM »

Awesome thread. At first it's surprising that there were even alternate alignments possible along a string of small islands. But there's a lot to explore. It may look a lot different in 20 years.
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #11 on: May 27, 2017, 02:12:35 PM »

I always thought it was odd but the blue County Route shields in south Florida almost look black in color:

IMG_9003 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

What is really strange to me is that Card Sound Road up Mainland splits off as CR 905A while CR 905 goes to the Ocean Reef Club.  Wouldn't it be more straight forward to have CR 905 signed all the way to the mainland?...or have it signed as CR A1A?

IMG_9005 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_9007 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

A couple pictures of the New Card Sound Bridge and the Monroe County Toll Plaza:

IMG_9010 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_9012 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_9013 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

IMG_9017 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

I thought the "Don't forget your Keys" was cheesy as all hell.  Really I prefer Card Sound Road over the 18 Mile Stretch due to there being a lot less people.  The passing zones on the 18 mile stretch really make things dicey since you have to get going pretty fast not to get run over.  I much rather have a quiet road that I have to pay $1 dollar to use rather than competing with people who want to pile onto the Turnpike.

Anyways, this the termination point of Card Sound Road at modern US 1 and the Overseas Railroad Alignment in Florida City:

IMG_9018 by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

With an overall map showing the difference in the 18 Mile Stretch and Card Sound Road:

23CardSoundvs18MileStretch by Max Rockatansky, on Flickr

Really not only is the 18 Mile Stretch Straighter but it is about 6 miles shorter than the route via Card Sound.  Really that being the case it is not really a surprise that the Railroad would take the shortest route from the mainland that was possibly.  My understanding was that there was even surveys conducted in the Everglades down to Cape Sable roughly on the alignment of the Old Ingraham Highway that would have in theory used a longer bridge to reach No Name Key and the Lower Keys.  Apparently it wasn't so much the bridge that was the issue but rather the terrain in the Everglades.  It does kind of surprise me that though that early development of 4a didn't really result in a road also on the 18 Mile Stretch, but the article I linked over talked about that more extensively.
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #12 on: May 27, 2017, 02:19:16 PM »

Awesome thread. At first it's surprising that there were even alternate alignments possible along a string of small islands. But there's a lot to explore. It may look a lot different in 20 years.

Thanks, really that's what makes the Keys really cool to explore.  In a modern sense, there is NO WAY after the EPA Act that any of this would have been possible...or it would make it incredibly unlikely.  The Railroad was largely built with private money with the assumption it would be a major shipping line given steam ships had to stop in Key West.  That really never came to fruition but it spurred development along all those islands and led to 4a being built up.  What really is interesting to me is that had that 1935 Hurricane not happened there would have been a really strong chance of the Railroad actually surviving in some form.  How cool would it be to not only be able to drive to Key West but take the Railroad as well?

As far as exploration down there in the Keys, I haven't even touched on stuff like the abandoned state highways over places like Boot Key or the other highway stuff on Sugarloaf Keys.  Really I find it odd how much is just sitting there out in the mangroves that really even people who live down there don't even know about.  I couldn't fathom people forgetting about something like previous alignments of US 66, so the question is why do they with US 1?   

Edit: 

Found a decent stub on Keyshistory on the Veterans Key Bridge:

http://www.keyshistory.org/Bridge-that-never-was.html

No Name Key with the old Bogie Channel Bridge and Ferry to Lower Matecumbe Key:

http://www.keyshistory.org/NoNameKey-Test.html

Mile Marker Log of the Overseas Highway:

http://www.keyshistory.org/MileMarkerChart.html

History of the Overseas Railroad which including the Cape Sable to No Name Key survey.  That would have really been something to have a bridge over 20 miles in length at the start of the 20th century:

http://www.keyshistory.org/Evolution-Of-Key-West-Extension.html

1930 Highway Map of the Keys showing the original alignment which includes the Ferry Route:

http://www.keyshistory.org/mapferryroute1930.jpg
« Last Edit: May 27, 2017, 05:09:43 PM by Max Rockatansky »
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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #13 on: May 29, 2017, 05:34:03 PM »

Awesome thread. At first it's surprising that there were even alternate alignments possible along a string of small islands. But there's a lot to explore. It may look a lot different in 20 years.
Thanks, really that's what makes the Keys really cool to explore.  In a modern sense, there is NO WAY after the EPA Act that any of this would have been possible...or it would make it incredibly unlikely.  The Railroad was largely built with private money with the assumption it would be a major shipping line given steam ships had to stop in Key West.  That really never came to fruition but it spurred development along all those islands and led to 4a being built up.  What really is interesting to me is that had that 1935 Hurricane not happened there would have been a really strong chance of the Railroad actually surviving in some form.  How cool would it be to not only be able to drive to Key West but take the Railroad as well?

As far as exploration down there in the Keys, I haven't even touched on stuff like the abandoned state highways over places like Boot Key or the other highway stuff on Sugarloaf Keys.  Really I find it odd how much is just sitting there out in the mangroves that really even people who live down there don't even know about.  I couldn't fathom people forgetting about something like previous alignments of US 66, so the question is why do they with US 1?   

I didn't see this thread ... I was posting in the one in fictional highways, where you mentioned this thread today.

Excellent maps and photos!  I was aware of Route 4A and other older alignments of the overseas highway.  You can see traces of them on Google Maps satellite view.

Why not much notice nationwide?  Likely because it is in a remote area for nearly all of the country, not that many people go there, at least do not drive all the way thru the Keys.

My only times in the Keys was in the 1960s when we lived near Melbourne, we made three trips to the Keys and two all the way to Key West.  All the bridges were the old ones, and those photos bring back memories.  They had rather narrow roadways.
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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #14 on: May 29, 2017, 06:15:31 PM »

Thanks, probably pretty apparent that this was something I really wanted to go back and do for awhile.  I discovered 4a by accident when I was living in the Keys for a couple years when I used it as a running path.  I have a lot of older photos from a time before the bikeway was built over 4a, those were some interesting days just finding a derelict roadbed behinds some trees on the side of US 1....still better than running on the shoulder of a busy highway IMO.  :-D

Its kind of amazing the effort that went into making those old rail bridges into highway bridges.  20 feet really wasn't enough room for modern traffic, especially with no shoulders to use.  I'm to understand that it was more like 5-6 hour trip before the Overseas Highway was modernized and most people wouldn't go past Marathon.

See, I think its a Florida thing in general with the lack of awareness to highway lore.  Its not just the Overseas Highway, there are plenty of old alignments or historic routes like; The Everglades Loop Road, The Tampa Highway, and CR 13 north of Espanola just to name a few off the top of my head.  Really for an eastern state there is a treasure trove of historic infrastructure to be found, but there isn't much interest outside of communities like this.  Conversely a place like Arizona or California the old US Route or even state highway alignments are somewhat general knowledge.  I can't really put my finger on why that is with Florida, you'd think out of any East Coast state there would be a bigger following for this sort of thing.
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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #15 on: May 29, 2017, 06:35:23 PM »

Thanks, probably pretty apparent that this was something I really wanted to go back and do for awhile.  I discovered 4a by accident when I was living in the Keys for a couple years when I used it as a running path.  I have a lot of older photos from a time before the bikeway was built over 4a, those were some interesting days just finding a derelict roadbed behinds some trees on the side of US 1....still better than running on the shoulder of a busy highway IMO.  :-D

Its kind of amazing the effort that went into making those old rail bridges into highway bridges.  20 feet really wasn't enough room for modern traffic, especially with no shoulders to use.  I'm to understand that it was more like 5-6 hour trip before the Overseas Highway was modernized and most people wouldn't go past Marathon.

It is about 110 miles from the mainland to Key West.  My parents drove so I don't remember the exact time, but I think you could still average about 40 mph on the trip in the 1960s.  So maybe 2 1/2 hours.  There was a lot less development in the Keys back then, and a lot less in Florida in general.  Traffic was a lot lower in the Keys then.

If the railroad had not been destroyed and still remained in use, would a continuous highway have been eventually built?  I suppose it could have been built alongside of the railroad.  Would the state have built a highway when they would need to build all new bridges?

See, I think its a Florida thing in general with the lack of awareness to highway lore.  Its not just the Overseas Highway, there are plenty of old alignments or historic routes like; The Everglades Loop Road, The Tampa Highway, and CR 13 north of Espanola just to name a few off the top of my head.  Really for an eastern state there is a treasure trove of historic infrastructure to be found, but there isn't much interest outside of communities like this.  Conversely a place like Arizona or California the old US Route or even state highway alignments are somewhat general knowledge.  I can't really put my finger on why that is with Florida, you'd think out of any East Coast state there would be a bigger following for this sort of thing.

There are abandoned sections of US-192 west of Melbourne, they built a new highway in the mid-1960s.

A lot of old infrastructure gets eliminated, such as the old causeway bridges at Melbourne, Eau Gallie and Cocoa.


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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #16 on: May 29, 2017, 07:27:39 PM »

I'd say on a good day the average with modern traffic for the full 127.5 miles from downtown Key West to Florida City is maybe 2 hours and 40 minutes without stopping.  I've done it in about 2 hours and 20 minutes flat at night with no traffic to get in the way.  That's interesting to hear that that travel times have largely plateaued over time.

Given there was roads existing on the islands of Marathon by 1935 and that the state was building a new highway bridge from Lower Matecumbe Key to Fiesta I'd say there was a pretty good chance to have a full highway next to the rails.  Really the biggest obstructions would have been; the Long Key viaduct, Seven Mile Bridge, and Bahia Honda Bridge since they either carried substantial length or had a somewhat deep channel.  I could see a situation where the route was complete except for a short seven mile ferry at the Seven Mile Bridge.

What hardly really ever gets touched on is that the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane really just accelerated the demise of the Overseas Railroad.  The Railroad as far as I know never made any money and largely became useless for freight once diesel ships took over from steam.  There was probably a pretty strong chance that the FEC would end up looking to sell the ROW anyways come a decade down the line when WWII hit.  The Navy especially had some serious interests in beefing up the existing Overseas Highway which would have probably still have happened during WWII regardless.

A couple other former alignments that come to mind would be all the stuff in the Green Swamp with FL 50 and even the Jungle Trail with A1A.  Even former sections of FL 13 still exist as local roads or private dirt roads east of Orlando.  The Ingraham Highway has a completely abandoned segment in Everglades National Park and there is even the brick portion of US 90 near Milton.  Weird how much older road stuff there is in Florida.
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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #17 on: May 29, 2017, 09:14:28 PM »

I'd say on a good day the average with modern traffic for the full 127.5 miles from downtown Key West to Florida City is maybe 2 hours and 40 minutes without stopping.  I've done it in about 2 hours and 20 minutes flat at night with no traffic to get in the way.  That's interesting to hear that that travel times have largely plateaued over time.

Much higher quality highway today compared to the 1960s, especially the bridges, but much more development and traffic.

Given there was roads existing on the islands of Marathon by 1935 and that the state was building a new highway bridge from Lower Matecumbe Key to Fiesta I'd say there was a pretty good chance to have a full highway next to the rails.  Really the biggest obstructions would have been; the Long Key viaduct, Seven Mile Bridge, and Bahia Honda Bridge since they either carried substantial length or had a somewhat deep channel.  I could see a situation where the route was complete except for a short seven mile ferry at the Seven Mile Bridge.

The 1930 map that you posted -- http://www.keyshistory.org/mapferryroute1930.jpg
The railroad was in operation then.
There was a continuous highway between Key West and No Name Key.
There was a ferry between No Name Key and Lower Matecumbe Key, about 40 miles.
There was a continuous highway between Lower Matecumbe Key and the mainland.

What hardly really ever gets touched on is that the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane really just accelerated the demise of the Overseas Railroad.  The Railroad as far as I know never made any money and largely became useless for freight once diesel ships took over from steam.  There was probably a pretty strong chance that the FEC would end up looking to sell the ROW anyways come a decade down the line when WWII hit.  The Navy especially had some serious interests in beefing up the existing Overseas Highway which would have probably still have happened during WWII regardless.

How many freight terminals were there then?  Given limited land probably not very many other than Key West, Islamorada  and Marathon.  Besides, Islamorada  and Marathon were already connected to the mainland by highway as shown in that 1930 map, so trucks could deliver there.

A couple other former alignments that come to mind would be all the stuff in the Green Swamp with FL 50 and even the Jungle Trail with A1A.  Even former sections of FL 13 still exist as local roads or private dirt roads east of Orlando.  The Ingraham Highway has a completely abandoned segment in Everglades National Park and there is even the brick portion of US 90 near Milton.  Weird how much older road stuff there is in Florida.

The old Cocoa Beach causeway took some interesting twists and turns --
http://spacecoastdaily.com/2016/12/brevard-county-history-the-original-cocoa-to-merritt-island-bridge/

The current alignment dates to 1941, it was 4-laned in the 1960s and high-level bridges were built.
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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #18 on: May 29, 2017, 10:09:22 PM »

Thanks for posting all this. Very in depth.

I've been onto the Keys twice. Once I drove the entire length and all around Key West. Then, on the return home, I stopped at one of the smallest Keys just after the bridge and pulled off to sleep. When I woke up, I was on a small island by myself, with just the occasional car driving by. The Atlantic to my right, and just across the highway still visible was the Gulf. It was incredibly scenic then to drive the rest of the way back in the early morning hours.

Second time, my wife and I made a day trip from her parents' place and stopped for dinner in Marathon (I think), and then turned back to head home. It was near Christmas, but the traffic was absurd and it took much longer than we anticipated.
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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #19 on: May 29, 2017, 10:26:59 PM »

I'd say on a good day the average with modern traffic for the full 127.5 miles from downtown Key West to Florida City is maybe 2 hours and 40 minutes without stopping.  I've done it in about 2 hours and 20 minutes flat at night with no traffic to get in the way.  That's interesting to hear that that travel times have largely plateaued over time.

Much higher quality highway today compared to the 1960s, especially the bridges, but much more development and traffic.

Given there was roads existing on the islands of Marathon by 1935 and that the state was building a new highway bridge from Lower Matecumbe Key to Fiesta I'd say there was a pretty good chance to have a full highway next to the rails.  Really the biggest obstructions would have been; the Long Key viaduct, Seven Mile Bridge, and Bahia Honda Bridge since they either carried substantial length or had a somewhat deep channel.  I could see a situation where the route was complete except for a short seven mile ferry at the Seven Mile Bridge.

The 1930 map that you posted -- http://www.keyshistory.org/mapferryroute1930.jpg
The railroad was in operation then.
There was a continuous highway between Key West and No Name Key.
There was a ferry between No Name Key and Lower Matecumbe Key, about 40 miles.
There was a continuous highway between Lower Matecumbe Key and the mainland.

What hardly really ever gets touched on is that the 1935 Labor Day Hurricane really just accelerated the demise of the Overseas Railroad.  The Railroad as far as I know never made any money and largely became useless for freight once diesel ships took over from steam.  There was probably a pretty strong chance that the FEC would end up looking to sell the ROW anyways come a decade down the line when WWII hit.  The Navy especially had some serious interests in beefing up the existing Overseas Highway which would have probably still have happened during WWII regardless.

How many freight terminals were there then?  Given limited land probably not very many other than Key West, Islamorada  and Marathon.  Besides, Islamorada  and Marathon were already connected to the mainland by highway as shown in that 1930 map, so trucks could deliver there.

A couple other former alignments that come to mind would be all the stuff in the Green Swamp with FL 50 and even the Jungle Trail with A1A.  Even former sections of FL 13 still exist as local roads or private dirt roads east of Orlando.  The Ingraham Highway has a completely abandoned segment in Everglades National Park and there is even the brick portion of US 90 near Milton.  Weird how much older road stuff there is in Florida.

The old Cocoa Beach causeway took some interesting twists and turns --
http://spacecoastdaily.com/2016/12/brevard-county-history-the-original-cocoa-to-merritt-island-bridge/

The current alignment dates to 1941, it was 4-laned in the 1960s and high-level bridges were built.

That original highway "FL 4a" was actually opened all the way back in 1928.  I'm pretty certain it even remained in service with the ferry gap even after the 1935 Hurricane until it was replaced by US which used the Overseas Railroad through the Middle Keys.  Most of the realignments from what was 4a didn't occur on US 1 until the 1940s when the road was straightened for WWII.  I thought you were referring to a continuous route in regards to not having ferry gaps. 

As far as ports go they were all down in Key West.  Key West was a major stop for ships using the Panama Canal when steam ships were the dominant means of sea travel for freight.  The assumption by the FEC was that building a railroad down there would provide a profitable freight route which really never really came to fruition.  When diesel took over it allowed cargo ships to reach mainland Florida without having to stop in Key West.  You can see the shift in population in Florida as something reflective of the advancement in technology, for a time Key West was the largest city in the state.  Places like Islamorada, Marathon, and Tavenier were all a result of the Overseas Railroad or the Highway.  There was an attempt during the era the Seminole Wars to open another port on Indian Key but the town was razed in raids.

Thanks for posting all this. Very in depth.

I've been onto the Keys twice. Once I drove the entire length and all around Key West. Then, on the return home, I stopped at one of the smallest Keys just after the bridge and pulled off to sleep. When I woke up, I was on a small island by myself, with just the occasional car driving by. The Atlantic to my right, and just across the highway still visible was the Gulf. It was incredibly scenic then to drive the rest of the way back in the early morning hours.

Second time, my wife and I made a day trip from her parents' place and stopped for dinner in Marathon (I think), and then turned back to head home. It was near Christmas, but the traffic was absurd and it took much longer than we anticipated.

Sounds like you were in the middle Keys.  There are some nice parking areas that really are nice for a stop overnight in a car, especially by the Seven Mile bridge where you essentially out on your own.  I always thought that it was really cool to watch sunrise from that bridge in the early morning. 

The weird thing is that there is HUGE variation in the number of folks who travel down to the Keys depending on the season.  I would speculate that the population of Key West probably balloons to at least 40,000 during the winter during the influx of "Snow Birds."  Really the weather doesn't really change all year given you are over the water in a tropical climate.  You can have a great time down there from May to early October provided you watch the weather report for tropical weather patterns.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2017, 10:31:14 PM by Max Rockatansky »
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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #20 on: May 29, 2017, 10:46:52 PM »

The first time i went to the Keys was probably the late 70s. I was a little kid. I remember the narrow bridges...
The next time was the 1980s. The highway bridges were all new and wide.

Remember "True Lies" with Arnold Schwarzenegger... They blew up one of the bridges for the movie

LGMS428

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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #21 on: May 29, 2017, 10:51:40 PM »

The first time i went to the Keys was probably the late 70s. I was a little kid. I remember the narrow bridges...
The next time was the 1980s. The highway bridges were all new and wide.

Remember "True Lies" with Arnold Schwarzenegger... They blew up one of the bridges for the movie

LGMS428

That would be the Old Seven Mile Bridge west of Pigeon Key:


Incidentally the car that is supposedly going to the mainland in that seen is actually traveling towards Key West.  I think the explosion was just CG as they bridge was going to be gapped anyways for sail boats.  Pigeon Key and the new Seven Mile Bridge are all in the background.

Edit:

A longer version of the scene except with Jamie Lee Curtis flailing around in Spanish. lol


The road deck is pretty narrow and you can see the re-purposed railroad tracks on Old Seven Mile Bridge which are the guard rails.
« Last Edit: May 29, 2017, 10:56:11 PM by Max Rockatansky »
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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #22 on: July 14, 2017, 12:42:11 AM »

Thought that I would give this thread a bump.  I was approached this past week about my maps of FL 4a by a museum (I'll edit later if they are okay with name dropping) down in the Keys which is building a digital web page about the history of the Overseas Highway.  I thought that it was cool as all hell they asked to use my maps, I also gave the okay to use my photos from this thread as well from 4a.  Personally it would mean a lot to me to see something like 4a get back into the mainstream backstory/lore of the Overseas Highway...there is way too much history there that shouldn't be forgotten IMO.

Anyways.....I thought that I would bump this page back up to see if anyone happens to have any older maps, bond measures, ect that might make a worthwhile addition for the project I described? 
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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #23 on: July 14, 2017, 08:14:04 AM »

Thought that I would give this thread a bump.  I was approached this past week about my maps of FL 4a by a museum (I'll edit later if they are okay with name dropping) down in the Keys which is building a digital web page about the history of the Overseas Highway.  I thought that it was cool as all hell they asked to use my maps, I also gave the okay to use my photos from this thread as well from 4a.  Personally it would mean a lot to me to see something like 4a get back into the mainstream backstory/lore of the Overseas Highway...there is way too much history there that shouldn't be forgotten IMO.

Anyways.....I thought that I would bump this page back up to see if anyone happens to have any older maps, bond measures, ect that might make a worthwhile addition for the project I described? 

You should really consider developing a blog or webpage to have a permanent home for these features.  They won't get buried by newer threads - and you'd be surprise how much interest you'll receive from outside the hobby.
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Max Rockatansky

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Re: Florida State Road 4a the original Overseas Highway
« Reply #24 on: July 14, 2017, 09:38:26 AM »

Thought that I would give this thread a bump.  I was approached this past week about my maps of FL 4a by a museum (I'll edit later if they are okay with name dropping) down in the Keys which is building a digital web page about the history of the Overseas Highway.  I thought that it was cool as all hell they asked to use my maps, I also gave the okay to use my photos from this thread as well from 4a.  Personally it would mean a lot to me to see something like 4a get back into the mainstream backstory/lore of the Overseas Highway...there is way too much history there that shouldn't be forgotten IMO.

Anyways.....I thought that I would bump this page back up to see if anyone happens to have any older maps, bond measures, ect that might make a worthwhile addition for the project I described? 

You should really consider developing a blog or webpage to have a permanent home for these features.  They won't get buried by newer threads - and you'd be surprise how much interest you'll receive from outside the hobby.

I've thought about it now and then over the years.  I tend to back up all these historic road threads on my Flickr Account album descriptions ever since I got that up and running, that is actually where I was approached about 4a.  Apparently the search feature is good enough that you can type in really specific search criteria if there is something really particular you're looking for. 

Tricky thing for me is that I'm not all that web savy anymore.  I'm sure it is a lot easier to create a domain or blog than what I remember a decade-plus ago.  Places like your site, USends, or Alpsroads are good sources of information for me...so I can possibly foresee maybe attempting one down the line?
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