Florida highway history

Image via State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory (public domain)

Back in the old days, Florida was a big wet slough-slog of a state full of Buick sized mosquitoes, hungry Florida panthers, creepy gators, and palm trees.

Today, it’s pretty much the same, but with the added bonus of a massive highway system connecting every orange grove in the state to every big city.

Here’s the abbreviated history on how it all happened.

US1 signage florida history

U.S. Highway 1

In 1926 when the highway system was planned, there were 10 major highways that would join all of Florida together. The most well known highway was U.S. Highway 1.

This is the major route from the Canadian border all the way to Miami. It enters the state at Jacksonville, Florida, and it meanders through most of the eastern coastal communities until it connects to U.S. Highway 94.

 

Old Dixie Highway

It once paralleled Old Dixie Highway, which was the major road that brought travelers from the Midwest to the South in 1914. This old road is still in existence, but has been broken apart in many of the Florida towns as they moved to a better road system.

Interstate 95 now runs  parallel to the route of U.S. Hwy 1, which is relegated to running through towns rather than being the major travel route.

U.S. Highway 94

I-94

Crisscrossing the state, U.S. Highway 94 takes travelers from Naples, Florida to Miami. This is the part of the Tamiami Trail that crosses the Everglades, and U.S. Highway 41 has absorbed it.

Interstate Highway 75

U.S. Highway 75

Until the construction of Interstate Highway 75, which is fondly known as Alligator Alley for good reason (as it was once a mere one lane each direction and frequently crossed by wild reptiles), there was no great road that would link up Fort Myers to Fort Lauderdale through the muck.

This interstate comes into the state south of Valdosta, Georgia and stops at Gainesville and Ocala before heading to Tampa.

The upper and central part of the state fared no better than the southern tip as far as easy travel across the state.

Until Walt Disney discovered Orlando, the roads that wandered through the central part of the state were two-lane blacktops that connected one small orange grove to another.

Walt Disney Orlando

Disney in Florida

Photo via State Archives of Florida, Florida Memory gift by Mary Lou Norwood

Once Disney came to town in the 1960s, it became obvious that these little roads were not going to do. Interstate Highway 4, which the locals call a parking lot because of traffic congestion, connects Daytona Beach to Tampa Bay. This runs through the heart of Orlando and offers quick access to Orlando International Airport.

Interstate Highway 10

Comes in from the West and goes through Tallahassee, which is the state capital, and it ends in downtown Jacksonville.

Florida coastline

Photo via U.S. Air Force via Wikimedia Commons (public domain)

While much of the Florida coastline is built-up and crowded, there are thousands of acres in the interior that are still serviced by some of the original two-lane roads. It is mostly farmland with a host of orange groves and cattle farms.

Until air conditioning became a common home appliance, many people did not live in Florida. The weather is hot and the mosquitoes are ruthless during the summer. But tourists have always visited during the winter, and that is why the direct route from Canada to Miami is now eight lanes.

With all of this traffic, there is a high prevalence of auto accidents. If you should find yourself so unlucky to be in one, do not hesitate to call the office of Shane Stafford, he is one of the best West Palm Beach auto injury lawyers there is.

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