The relative emptiness of Key West and the Lower Keys over the past 10 or so weeks was a rare silver lining with regard to the Cow Key Bridge repair work that was expected to cause crippling traffic tie-ups from March to December.
As of mid-March, no school buses had to access the island or use twin-span Cow Key Bridge at its entrance, as schools went virtual. And employees in tourism-related businesses didn’t have to shift their work schedules to avoid anticipated morning and afternoon back-ups.
But as residents have started returning to work over the past week, traffic has steadily increased and is expected to get heavier as visitors return to the Florida Keys and Key West.
The $6.2 million project that’s being run by the Florida Department of Transportation is proceeding on schedule and is slated for completion in December.
Crews currently are working on the outbound bridge span, and all traffic is using three lanes on the inbound bridge.
Drivers, bicyclists and pedestrians are urged to use caution and pay attention to the lane shifts.
According to the FDOT project website, the weekday lane-shift schedule provides for two inbound lanes and one outbound lane from 4 to 10 a.m. From 10 a.m. to 4 a.m., there is one inbound lane and two outbound lanes leaving Key West.
On Saturdays, there are two inbound and one outbound lane, and on Sundays, the reverse holds true: one inbound and two outbound lanes.
“The outbound U.S. 1 left turn lane onto College Road South is prohibited. Motorists are detoured to College Road North. To minimize congestions, a temporary traffic signal was installed on College Road North and it is fully operational,” FDOT states. “The outbound bridge sidewalk and College Road South crosswalk are closed to pedestrians and cyclists, who can use the crosswalks on Roosevelt Boulevard in Key West and Cross Street on Stock Island. The inbound bridge sidewalk along the Florida Keys Overseas Heritage Trail is open.”
The stated schedule is subject to change due to bad weather or other unexpected conditions.
Access underneath the bridge is also limited for mariners, according to FDOT.
“During construction, the contractor will have crews working in the water and overhead,” the website states. “Bridge spans 2, 3 and 4 are blocked by barges. For the safety of mariners and the construction crew, mariners should use other spans for passage or consider an alternate route.”
Boaters with questions about access should call the U.S. Coast Guard Sector Key West Command Center at 305-292-8727.