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Responding to Armstrong’s letter

By Staff | Aug 4, 2010

To the editor,

In a recent commentary by the Committee of the Islands, we wrote that “it was literally decades ago that Lee County first proposed replacing the Sanibel drawbridge and causeway islands with an enormous, single span bridge that would have leapt from the mainland to Sanibel in one great arc.”

One of your readers subsequently asked what the source of that statement was.  Actually, the plan to replace the Sanibel Causeway with a single span bridge is one of the more amply documented proposals of the causeway’s long history. That history even includes a referendum, held in 1990, when Sanibel residents voted by 65% to 35% to prevent City Council from supporting the single span proposal.

All of this is described in a publication issued by the Lee County Board of Commissioners on the day the new bridges and causeway were dedicated, Sept. 8, 2007. Titled, “The New Sanibel Causeway Grand Opening Day Ceremony,” the document is basically a program for the dedication ceremony and the day’s events. But it also contains a fascinating history of the Sanibel Causeway.

Regarding the single span bridge proposal, the publication cites numerous mentions of it over a period of 14 years, dating from 1985 through 1999. Here are some of those citations:

“1985 — County engineers propose replacing the drawbridge with a fixed high span bridge at the cost of $22 million because of deficiencies in the bridge and continual auto and boat traffic delays.”

“1990 — With the city and the county poised to approve a $56 million span (4 lane concrete span striped for 2 lanes of traffic) that would replace the existing bridges and causeway, Sanibel voters approve a referendum (65% to 35%) stopping the city from supporting it.”

“1998 — Great public debate ensues as to whether to replace the drawbridge with a similar looking drawbridge or replace the causeway with a high single span structure.  Engineering study says building new single span structure in 2005 rather than in 2013… would save $24 million. Credit – The News-Press, 1998.”

“1999 — Four options are being considered… (including) a high fixed span bridge from the mainland to Sanibel.

As we mentioned above, the county’s publication is a fascinating account of the causeway’s long history, one that goes well beyond the single span bridge debate. For example, it includes a reference to 1955, when transportation to the island was provided by ferry service. In that year it notes that “Sanibel wildfires devastate the island, which launches discussions about the possibility of building a causeway for future evacuations.”

You can read more about this history by accessing the county’s document online at the following web site: www.sanibelcauseway.com/ImagesRepository/sanibelcauseway/Downloads/sanibel_program.pdf

Mike Gillespie

Vice President, Committee of the Islands