Mar 202012

…And it ain’t got nuthin’ to do with hurricanes. Nope, the newest kerfluffle descending on Key West isn’t over affordable housing, dredging the channel for bigger cruise ships, nor dealing with the homeless. This storm is all about…

…a fence.

Let me ‘splain with some words and pictures. Take a look at this map…


This is a map of North Roosevelt Blvd. which runs along the north east side of Key West from US 1 to the intersection of Eisenhower/Jose Marti/and Truman Ave. On the south side of this road is all of the main non touristy shopping on the island. Three large shopping centers, grocery stores, a Home Depot, some car dealers, and assorted smaller businesses. There are also several hotels and resorts along this road. The road has a bike/pedestrian path on the water side and an old seawall that sits 4 or 5 feet above the water line depending on how much global warming there is when you measure it.

North Roosevelt is by far one of the busiest roads in Key West. Most of the traffic, motorized and non motorized utilizes North Roosevelt to access the island. It’s a main route for delivery vehicles to get into the downtown area. Residents who live just about anyplace from Big Pine Key south come in on this road for the only decent shopping in the lower Keys. Tourists who drive down take this route to get into the Duval and Old Town areas. It is one busy road. So, needless to say, it takes a beating. The heavy traffic has torn up the pavement and the old seawall is crumbling away. In 2005 hurricane Wilma swooped in and flooded the whole area under a couple feet of sea water adding to the damage. The entire road could stand some improvements.

Well, the State Of Florida, who claims ownership of North Roosevelt, (remember that, it’s important), has decided that the time is now to renovate North Roosevelt Blvd. The wonderful folks at FDOT pulled out their sofa cushions and found enough spare change to fix up the road…to the tune of about $42 million dollars, or about an hours worth of iPad sales if you want to put it in Apple dollars. Among the plans are repaving the roads, adding new lights and crosswalks, repaving the bike paths, new landscaping, rebuilding the sea wall, and, you guessed it, adding a safety fence on the seawall. And that is what all the fuss is about.

There is growing opposition to the fence coming from all directions. The City of Key West would prefer not to have it. Many residents prefer not to have it. The argument is that it will obstruct the view of the gulf from the road. A view that currently looks something like this…


The State, who as I mentioned earlier, owns the road, says the fence is being put up for safety reasons. They claim somebody MIGHT fall over the seawall into the foot deep water and get hurt or killed, then sue everyone. And since they own the road, they make the decisions. The sides are forming up at the moment for what is sure to be an entertaining battle. There are well thought out editorials in the local news such as this one. And some rather colorful if not overly exuberant comments on some of the forums like these.

Both sides have legitimate concerns but perhaps I can better illustrate with the following images what is going on here…

This is pretty much how North Roosevelt looks now along the seawall…


This is how the taxpayers view the project…


This is how opponents of the fence view it…


This is how the State wants it to look when it’s all done, an artists rendering…


And this is approximately the style of fence that they plan on installing…


That’s correct. A simple aluminum fence about 3 ½ feet tall. That is basically what is planned for along the seawall and causing all the fuss.

I can see both sides of this argument. Personally I’m staying a bit neutral on the whole thing, but as you may have guessed I do have a few thoughts on the subject. Wanna hear them? Of course you do!

First of all, if the State wants this fence up, it will go up. No amount of protesting is going to stop it. While the chances of some idiot falling off the seawall are slim, the liability concerns are real. And since the State owns the road they would be first inline for the lawsuit gravy train.

The City could stop the fence. All they need to do is buy the road from the State. The City does own South Roosevelt and if you go along there you’ll see a nice new road, wide bike paths, and no fence on the seawall. But, I doubt the State is willing to sell nor does the City have the money.

I don’t see how a 3 ½ foot tall fence with open spaces between the slats obscures a view but opponents say it will. From a bicycle standpoint I’m pretty sure I can see over the fence. From a vehicle standpoint you should be paying attention to your damn driving, not looking at the scenery. Remember this is a very busy road.

Opponents argue of the esthetics of a big ugly fence along a waterfront. Yeah, I can agree with that. Again though, the less distractions on this road, the better.

If the fence is indeed aluminum it means that at some point some morons will try to cut it up and steal it to sell the scrap aluminum. How many times will parts and pieces need replacing?

People will want to lock things to it, like bicycles. Hang signs on it, paint graffiti on it. And if the top railing is flat enough, some drunken fool will attempt to walk on it.

And finally there is the cost. The need is questionable. The desire to have it is not there. Why not save the money and leave the fence out. But again, the State knows all, sees all, spends all.

This little brouhaha is going to go on for a long time. The renovation project is scheduled to begin in April of 2012, or a couple weeks from this post. It is to last for nearly 3 years. There will be delays, over budgets, and plenty of short tempers. There will be protests, legal battles, and drinking, because hey, this island drinks to sunset every night. So any excuse for a party. It’s the Key West way.

Well, don’t fret too much cause the Fritter is on it. If you follow my blog over at Pedalfritters I will be putting up special pages to help deal with the traffic. I’ll be adding in suggested detours, alternate routes, and updating as often as I can all the goings on with this project and any further developments regarding the fence.

The bottom line here is this project has real merit, fence or not. The road is in bad need of repair. North Roosevelt is an important part of this island and lots of people and businesses rely on it. It’s going to be a difficult time and anyone who lives here or drives here will be affected by it. Drive, pedal, or walk carefully when you are in or around any of the construction. Remember that the people doing the actual work, sweating in the hot sun, working in the rain, are doing their jobs. Give them a break and a shout out now and then. Save the road rage for the mainland where it belongs. Go with the flow and if you know you have to be in the construction area, plan ahead for delays. We’ll get through this and when it’s all done we’ll have a nice shiny new road and bike path to use.

Here are some resources to help keep up with what’s going on…

The Key West Citizen our fine local newspaper. Seriously, it’s a very good source for information on all things Key West.

Big Pine Key Coconut Telegraph one of the more entertaining boards in the Keys.

Project PDF a good idea of what is planned.

City of Key West.

Remember, I’ll be over on Pedalfritters with up to date information as the project moves along so be sure to follow me there. And don’t sweat the fence. We’ll have plenty of other storms to worry about.

Capt. Fritter