Tuesday, March 20, 2012

Florida History: The SoFla bridge no one wanted.

Anglin's Pier, LBTS

By Jane Feehan

The beach town of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea, and particularly Mayor Gil Colnot, long resisted the building of the Commercial Boulevard bridge in the early 1960s. Colnot embraced “No bridge” as a plank in his winning 1958 election platform.*

A municipality of about 1,300 in 1960, Lauderdale-By-The-Sea held itself as the quintessentially small all-American town, insulated by its location east of the Intracoastal north of its much larger neighbor, Fort Lauderdale. A bridge would bring life-altering unwanted traffic.

But the Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) moved forward with construction of a million-dollar bridge in 1964. Commercial Boulevard was a major east-west thoroughfare; the bridge was necessary. It officially opened October 16 that year and the impact was immediate and significant. 

The number of visitors increased four-fold. Traffic jammed through the town. By 1970 FDOT counted 22,000 vehicles passing through Lauderdale-By-The-Sea in 24 hours. Records in 2010 revealed 37,500 drove through daily. More than 56,000 are expected through its streets by 2027. For years there were no parking meters. Now, “bring quarters” may be a visitor’s mantra; meters are ubiquitous.

Tourists came, population grew - about 6000 permanent residents by 2010 - as it did elsewhere in Broward County, and businesses thrived.

The 350.4-foot bridge is classified today as “functionally obsolete.” That sounds worse than it is. Functionally obsolete indicates it is not up to current road design standards such as lane widths. Copyright © 2012. All rights reserved. Jane Feehan.

* Colnot held the mayoral seat for 20 years. 

Richard, Candace. Seventy-Three Years By The Sea. LBTS: The Community Church of Lauderdale-By-The-Sea (2000).

Tags: Lauderdale-By-The-Sea history, bridges in South Florida, growth of South Florida in the 1960s, Lauderda-By-the-Sea in the 1960s, film researcher

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