Reconstructing the Sanibel Causeway is helping the environment

Reporter: Elizabeth Biro
Published: Updated:

Progress is being made on the Sanibel Causeway. A lot of work has been done since the temporary roadway opened to traffic in October, a mere three weeks after Hurricane Ian destroyed sections of the causeway.

Crews are working on several tasks, such as removing traffic railings and installing sheet piles.

The Florida Department of Transportation said the goal is the road work should be permit-permitting.

Crews are hard at work all around the causeway and are not disrupting places where birds are nesting.

Care for animals is just one of the ways engineers working on the causeway keep the environment in mind.

Sanibel Causeway
Reconstruction designs for the Sanibel Causeway. CREDIT: FDOT

In Jack Elias’s 48 years living on the Barrier Island, he can’t begin to guess how many times he’s driven over the causeway.

“That feeling will never stop, that beautiful feeling of seeing the islands. That’s very special,” said Elias.

Driving over the causeway, you can’t help but notice the mangroves on your right, the lighthouse to the left and the glistening water all around. Thirty years ago, John Scheer came to indulge in the beauty and quaintness the island offers.

“The way it’s protected so well, we just couldn’t pass it up,” said Scheer.

Sanibel’s commitment to protecting the sanctuary island’s natural systems can be seen all over the Causeway’s green and gray infrastructure reconstruction. Gray is concrete-like materials you see on the project, roads and sea wall.

The sheet piles provide extra armor to the Causeway.

Green is using natural and native plants to reestablish the coastline. Crews will plant natural vegetation for erosion protection and mangroves to harden the shoreline.

Sanibel knows natural barriers are some of our best defenders against the elements. Engineers working on the project say the new design using green and gray infrastructure provides a more resilient causeway but aesthetically will look very similar to before. Those are two points that long-time Sanibel residents appreciate.

“They’ve already got some of the trees going and stuff, so it’s starting to kick back up again,” said Jodi Hubler, who works on the island. “I can’t wait for it to be totally the way it was before.”

The project is estimated to cost $285 million, and the feds will pick up 80% of the bill with the state and/or Lee County footing the rest.

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