Out of all the old bridges of the Florida Keys, the old Bahia Honda Bridge is the scariest. Originally all the bridges of the Florida Keys were built as railroad bridges by Henry Flagler. But in 1935, the last train from Key West could not outrun the hurricane and this ended the railroad. From its ashes came US1, the route that goes from Key West, all the way to Maine.
For most of the bridges, converting to a roadway was no problem. A lot of the bridges were arches made from special sea water resistant concrete and lined with gravel. A few were regular bridges which could be expanded to the wider roadbed. The Bahia Honda Bridge was an exception. It was a simple truss bridge, which meant that the support was above the rail surface. It could not be expanded to support the width of a two lane highway. The result was the road was built on top of the truss structure. This raises the bridge to a height of 65' above the sea level.
Only a very small section of the bridge (on the Bahia Honda side) is accessible by foot, the rest of the bridge has been severed from the islands making them inaccessible. So the best views of the bridge are from the islands and from the small portion of the bridge that is still accessible via foot traffic. Here you can see the bridge from the western side. You can see the gap here comes from the end of the island to the bridge. The roadway is exactly as it was back in 1972 allowing for several decades of unrepaired wear on the bridge by many a hurricane and storm.
Here is a close-up of the reinforced trusses. If you look carefully you can see the break on the Bahia Honda side as well. Note also the arched truss that required a “bump” in the road. Consider the amount of safety railing used in roads of this period. Imagine driving this road. I was told at one point when you reached that bump, all you saw in front of you was water; no roadway at all. Now imagine that bridge in bad weather.
From the Bahia Honda side you can walk down it a ways until you reach the break. Here you can see what the road would look like when maintained. There is an additional iron railing, but the road remains mostly the same. We are not even near that bump in the road and it already looks nasty.
Here we see the road leading to where they created the gap. To the right is the bridge that replaced it. The road goes into the distance where it suddenly starts to go up. Now that’s a strange sight.
Ironically this had the happy effect of leaving the frame for the railroad intact underneath. The only addition was that of a fresh water pipeline going down the lower portion of the bridge.
From the bridge we turn back to the island. Note that over the decades trees have grown over the highway. If it wasn’t for the trees one would see the water straight from the roadway, not a very comforting thought as you drive down that steep slope.
Here is a view of the bridge under that steep slope and the truss structure. Note that the portion you can walk above is closed from below. The gap is at the far end of the photo if you loose closely.
I’m glad I do not have to drive on that bridge. I would have liked to walk on it, or be able to ride a bike on it, but that is no longer possible. The bridge is only accessible to the birds. How I envy those pelicans!