an aerial view of a highway near the ocean
The 18-Mile Stretch in Key Largo near Bikini Beach. DAVID GROSS/Keys Weekly

Resurfacing work will begin later this summer on a rough stretch of highway between Jewfish Creek Bridge in Key Largo and the Miami-Dade County line.

Between the growing number of potholes and patch jobs, daily work commuters and frequent travelers to and from the mainland are all too familiar with some bumpy sections on the 18-Mile Stretch near the Keys. It’s one of two arteries into the Florida Keys, the other being Card Sound Road. 

While the Florida Department of Transportation isn’t scheduled to resurface the entire 18-Mile Stretch this year, work will begin later this summer on a 4.4-mile section from the Jewfish Creek Bridge at MM 108.4 to the Miami-Dade County line at MM 112.8. Paulette Summers, community outreach specialist for FDOT, told Keys Weekly a milling and resurfacing on both sides of the highway will begin the week of June 3.

“This project will cost an estimated $19 million and will take approximately 15 months to complete,” Summers said, adding most of the work will take place on the northbound side of the Stretch.

In addition, FDOT is planning to replace guardrail, improve pavement markings and signs, add riprap for shoreline protection and provide a service patrol area for emergency response. Plans are also in place to install new northbound and southbound bicycle lanes. Sections of Overseas Highway travel lanes will be reconstructed, and Gilbert’s Resort drive will be realigned.

“It’s one of the worst sections on the Stretch,” said State Rep. Jim Mooney, who has been in touch with FDOT District 6 director Stacy Miller about the deteriorating section of the highway. “It isn’t a safe section and I made a point of that.”

Monroe County Mayor Holly Raschien was delighted to hear FDOT will soon be resurfacing one of the poorer sections of the 18-Mile Stretch. 

“It’s way past due,” she said. “I’m glad that the agency has also prioritized minimizing negative impacts to our traffic flow, and that they continue to maintain an open line of communication between our community and project coordinators.”

Raschein added she hopes work will proceed up the Stretch once resurfacing is complete on the 4.4-mile section of highway. Summers told Keys Weekly on April 18 there are no additional resurfacing projects for the 18-Mile Stretch in the current five-year work program, which spans from 2025 to 2029.

Temporary lane closures are expected during non-peak hours, and detours could affect traffic. Access to businesses and neighborhoods will be maintained. 

FDOT is also in the process of developing a design for a $1.2 million landscape project between MM 108 and MM 112, which includes a portion of the stretch near what’s known as Bikini Beach. In February 2022, Sheriff Rick Ramsay went before the county commission to discuss his request for FDOT to install fencing or foliage near MM 109 on the stretch. It’s an area where vehicles tend to slow down and cause more than a mile of traffic congestion, especially on weekends, to view boats, jet skis and swimmers at the small sandbar.

A fabric screen was installed along the existing fence at MM 109 with mixed reviews from locals. Battering winds whipped the screen to the point where it no longer exists. 

Last September, FDOT provided two illustrations predicting what the landscape barrier would look like either way. Discussion by county commissioners revolved around which entity, Monroe County or FDOT, would maintain the landscaping.

Jim McCarthy
Jim McCarthy is one of the many Western New Yorkers who escaped the snow and frigid temperatures for warm living by the water. A former crime & court reporter and city editor for two Western New York newspapers, Jim has been honing his craft since he graduated from St. Bonaventure University in 2014. In his 4-plus years in the Keys, Jim has enjoyed connecting with the community. “One of my college professors would always preach to be curious,” he said. “Behind every person is a story that’s unique to them, and one worth telling. As writers, we are the ones who paint the pictures in the readers minds of the emotions, the struggles and the triumphs.” Jim is past president of the Key Largo Sunset Rotary Club, which is composed of energetic members who serve the community’s youth and older populations. Jim is a sports fanatic who loves to watch football, hockey, mixed martial arts and golf. He also enjoys time with family and his new baby boy, Lucas, who arrived Oct. 4, 2022.