Ten years ago, Gil Waters drove a vintage car over the brand-new John Ringling Causeway Bridge. The longtime advocate for the fixed-span bridge joined a parade for the August 31, 2003 grand opening that replaced the 1958 drawbridge and transformed the old bridge into a fishing pier.
Sarasota erupted into controversy at the thought of replacing the drawbridge. I remember locals complaining that they wouldn’t be able to see Sarasota Bay from the new span. It took a decade to wade through the discussions and legal challenges to the idea of a 65-foot-high bridge.
No doubt similar arguments arose about replacing the 1926 bridge which also connected the mainland with St Armand Key. After all, the Circus magnate John Ringling invested $1 million of his personal fortune to build that bridge and drove the first car across the new byway. He thought it was a good investment. The bridge made travel easier to his new developments on Bird, Lido, Longboat and St Armands keys.
Today the Ringling Bridge hosts joggers and walkers, as well as more than 40,000 vehicles per day. Now a city landmark, the bridge shows up in most portraits of Downtown Sarasota.
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