Q&A: I-75 overpass near Ocala is Cross Florida Greenway Land Bridge

I-75 overpass is greenway bridge

Just south of Ocala, there is an overpass that crosses Interstate 75 that has trees and bushes growing on it. I have never observed a vehicle crossing it. It appears to be a private overpass. Please tell your readers whatever story is behind this unusual overpass.

We believe you're referring to the Cross Florida Greenway Land Bridge, which crosses Interstate 75 just south of Ocala, between Exits 67 and 68.

It's part of the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway, which occupies much of the space that used to be the Cross Florida Barge Canal. The recreational greenway is 110 miles long, winding between a spot just south of Palatka, in Putnam County, near the East Coast and Inglis on the Gulf Coast.

The bridge over I-75 connects the eastern and western portions of the greenway with a landscaped trail for hikers, horse riders, bike riders and wildlife.

How the bridge came about is an interesting slice of Florida history. In 1933, an idea of building a canal to cross Florida took root. A Canal Authority was created to oversee its construction, which began in 1935 but ended in 1936 when funds ran out during the Depression.

Congress got involved and authorized the canal in 1942, but construction didn't begin until 1964. In 1969 the Florida Defenders of the Environment, the Environmental Defense Fund and other groups filed suit to halt the construction, arguing its construction would be an environmental disaster. In 1974, a court issued a permanent injunction stopping the work. The canal was one-third finished.

In 1990, U.S. Sens. Bob Graham and Connie Mack of Florida filed a bill calling for a greenway to replace the canal. It was passed by Congress and signed by President George Bush. In 1991, Florida officials agreed to the change.

In 1998, the Cross Florida Greenway was officially renamed the Marjorie Harris Carr Cross Florida Greenway. Carr, who died in October 1998 at 83, founded the Florida Defenders of the Environment and led the battle to halt the Cross Florida Barge Canal project. In 1996, when Carr was inducted into the Florida Women's Hall of Fame, then-Gov. Lawton Chiles said, "Her efforts to deauthorize the Cross Florida Barge Canal began with one person and ended years later with thousands of citizens convincing their elected representatives of the detrimental nature of this project."

The $3.1 million land bridge was completed in 2000 by the Florida Department of Transportation, and was paid for with federal gas tax revenue earmarked for nonmotorized transportation.

The bridge is 52 feet wide and 200 feet long, with an additional 400 feet of ramps on both sides. Its planters sport such native Florida plants as saw palmetto, chickasaw plum, rusty lyonia and yellow hawthorn.

Q&A: I-75 overpass near Ocala is Cross Florida Greenway Land Bridge 05/26/11 [Last modified: Tuesday, November 1, 2011 6:27pm]

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