Overseas Highway (Cont.)

The hurricane destroyed approximately 40 miles of railroad and proved the death knell to an already faltering Over-Sea Railway. After the storm, many of the railroad bridges were refitted to accommodate automobile traffic. Because the Bahia Honda Bridge’s camel trestle construction made it impossible to widen, the automobile path traversed the top of the bridge. When the Overseas Highway reopened on March 29, 1938 (officially celebrated July 4, 1938), automobile bridges had replaced the need for a ferry system. Along the new bridges, railroad track was repurposed and used as guard rails.

To pay for all the work, the highway reopened as a toll road with booths established at Lower Matecumbe and Big Pine keys. A third, more direct version of the Overseas Highway was unveiled in 1944 and followed the path of the former railroad line between Jewfish Creek and the mainland. Officially dubbed U.S. Highway 1, the road now stretched from Key West to not just the mainland, but to Fort Kent, Maine.

Tolls along the relatively modern Overseas Highway were lifted in 1954. The original path of State Road 4A, once called the fishing route, can be traveled by taking the Card Sound Road—the only other automobile entry into the Florida Keys. Card Sound Road requires a $1 toll, but does pass a great treasure, Alabama Jack’s, where the atmosphere and conch fritters are legendary.