Gridlock Guy: Florida highway lacked alternative route

Last weekend my wife and I went to a wedding in Key West, Fla. We opted to fly from Atlanta to Ft. Lauderdale then rent a car for the drive to Key West. Once you leave the “mainland” the drive is all along a 127-mile stretch of U.S. 1 which runs the length of the Keys, called the Overseas Highway. I’ve made the drive before and it is certainly one of the most beautiful routes in all 50 states.

The drive however, is not without it’s drawbacks. Many people find the trip (mostly a two-lane road) to be a little uncomfortable. Those who don’t necessarily enjoy driving on bridges, might not want to make the drive, especially over the famous “Seven Mile Bridge.” If you are uncomfortable driving over bridges, this is not the trip for you.

Another drawback to the journey are the possible traffic jams that can accumulate on the Overseas Highway. Both driving down to Key West and back to Ft. Lauderdale last week, my wife and I encountered lengthy delays. A bad crash heading home added over an hour to our trip time. As a traffic reporter, that’s what I find most irksome about driving through the Keys. There are absolutely no alternate routes.

None. Zip. Zero. Nada.

You are on U.S. 1 until you are no longer on U.S. 1. There is no way to avoid bad traffic, a bad crash or construction delays.

One of my main goals as a traffic reporter is to provide alternate routes to commuters in Atlanta. When a problem pops up, I try to find at least one, and up to four alternate routes for people driving. It is one of the most important aspects of my job — get people around delays and problems by providing alternative paths.

When you are driving to and from Key West the lack of alternate routes can be maddening. As I mentioned earlier we were delayed on our return trip by a rollover crash. Once the traffic came to a complete stop, I pulled out my phone and opened up the WSB-TV Traffic App (yes, it works everywhere!). The app showed me how far ahead the trouble was and how long the backups stretched. Critical information at the time, because we were heading back to the airport to catch a flight.

That, however, was when I realized we were stuck. No alternate routes, no way to avoid the jam, other than pulling off the road and having lunch while the traffic tried to improve. Thankfully, when we passed the crash scene, no one was injured and we made our flight back to Atlanta in plenty of time.

There is no doubt that the drive through the Florida Keys is breathtakingly beautiful, but if you are not a fan of bridges, or an over-anxious traffic reporter, a flight directly to Key West might be your best bet.

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