U.S. 1 in the Keys is a nightmare and gives bad impression for tourists

July 12, 2014 

If you have spent any time on the stretch of U.S.1 from Marathon through Key Largo, this will make sense to you. Not so much if you are the state Department of Transportation, Monroe County Sheriff's Office, a city planner, a road construction company or anybody that pulls a check and does less than enough to manage the operations of our only highway.

If you want to see nice functioning roads, take a drive through Naples. They got it right, and then some.

During a recent 2.5-hour crawl home, I had plenty of time to see how bad U.S. 1 looks and operates and where the many problems are. There were no accidents. Seems everybody has figured out that the Old Highway in Islamorada saves them time, so down the road they stop U.S. 1 traffic, cutting back in. The left arm is cutting the right arm off literally. I just saved you a million-dollar traffic study.

This helps too: Finish the construction work you start and hire more than five guys to get it done in a timely manner. Have police block off the Old Highway intersections to keep traffic on the highway and not in neighborhoods. Lock the Snake Creek drawbridge. I don't care about your tall sailboat that stops 100 cars for your recreation. Kick the campers off the side of the roads. Go to a beach like the rest of the world.

I can keep going, but this is very basic common sense that is not applied to any degree.

The Sunday after the Fourth of July should be seen as a practice run for an evacuation -- lots of people leaving at once. I saw a disaster and have no confidence there is any chance of an orderly evacuation because multiple agencies have failed you all. It was pure anarchy on the road and there was zero preparation or action by the people that get paid to keep U.S. 1 operating as it should.

If I was a visitor stuck in that nightmare, I would be reconsidering coming back to the Keys to spend my next vacation. Think about it. There goes our income. Maybe I'd go to Naples, where you can get from point A to Point B in a safe and timely manner.

If it isn't easy getting around, then we all should be asking these agencies why. Until then, enjoy your extended stay in the two-lane war zone and fend for yourself. Make a game out of counting Bobs Barricades or how many people cut in front of you because you aren't going anywhere.

Kevin Johnsen

Key Largo

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