Bridging Tamiami Trail

NPCA views the bridging of Tamiami Trail as the highest priority to restoring critical habitat and an entire ecosystem in a national park. Tamiami Trail (U.S. Highway 41/State Road 90) connects Tampa to Miami and forms a portion of the northern boundary of Everglades National Park. It provides access to one of the most popular areas of the park – Shark Valley Slough and observation tower – and is the only way to access the Big Cypress National Preserve Visitor Center and Headquarters.

Since the 1920s, an 11-mile stretch of Tamiami Trail has acted as a dam, impeding the natural north-south flow of water through the greater Everglades ecosystem. As a result, Everglades National Park is starved of vital water, causing deterioration of the park’s wading bird and wildlife habitat and its unique ridge and slough landscape.

In 1989, Congress authorized the Modified Water Deliveries project, which included bridging one mile of Tamiami Trail. Twenty years later, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers broke ground on the one-mile bridge in 2009.

In March 2013, NPCA celebrated the ribbon cutting of the one-mile bridge. This project is critical to restoring water flows and distribution that marine wildlife, fisheries, and nesting colonies of birds rely on, including the endangered Everglade Snail Kite and the Cape Sable Seaside Sparrow. The bridge construction already has brought much needed jobs to South Florida. From 2010 to 2012, 1,212 jobs were created.

This one-mile bridge span is a critical first step to restoring water flows to Everglades National Park; however, it alone will not achieve the water flows necessary to restore the Everglades. 

In 2010, the National Park Service (NPS) released its final environmental impact statement for the “Everglades National Park Tamiami Trail Modifications:  Next Steps Project,” which identified the preferred alternative to be four additional spans of bridging, resulting in 5.5 miles in addition to the one-mile bridge. This would reestablish seasonal water depths and flooding durations critical to the survival of numerous species and bring the total elevated portions of Tamiami Trail to 6.5 miles.

NPCA strongly supports NPS’ preferred alternative for bridging an additional 5.5 miles on Tamiami Trail. The Everglades ecosystem has been severely damaged by the drastic low water levels, with Everglades National Park only receiving 30 percent of the water it needs to function properly.

In fall 2012, NPS started the planning and design phase for the next segment of bridging on Tamiami Trail, which will be a 2.6-mile span. A design build is expected to be ready mid-2014.

NPCA is exploring options to fund the construction for the next span of bridging.  Among possible options are settlement penalties from the BP-Gulf oil spill because moving water south will improve the health of Southern Gulf estuaries, specifically Florida Bay and the Caloosahatchee. These estuaries are being damaged from the erratic and often devastating flows of water because water is unable to flow south through its historic course. 

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