The Keys highway is the only All-American Road in Florida. It's the highest recognition possible under the National Scenic Byways program established by the U.S. Congress in 1991. Only 30 other roadways in the nation have earned the prestigious title.
Originally completed in 1938, the Overseas Highway, stretches 113 miles from mainland Florida to Key West
and crosses 42 bridges with the Atlantic Ocean on one side of the highway, and the Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico on the other. They include the Seven Mile Bridge at Marathon
, which stretches 6.79 miles across open water and was referred to on its completion as "the eighth wonder of the world."
Under the Federal Highway Administration's National Scenic Byways program, roads can be recognized as National Scenic Byways or All-American Roads based on their archeological, cultural, historic, natural, recreational and scenic qualities.
To earn All-American Road status, a thoroughfare must possess characteristics of national significance and features that don't exist elsewhere, making it a visitor destination in itself.
"The All-American Road designation will bring status to us with international and domestic visitors, so that they know driving U.S. 1 from Key Largo
to Key West is a one-of-a-kind driving experience," said Judy Hull, president of the Florida Keys Scenic Corridor Alliance that spearheaded a multi-year effort to achieve the distinction, who was in Washington for the ceremony. "It should help us with tourism and future highway grant funding."
The Overseas Highway follows a trail originally blazed in 1912 when Standard Oil millionaire Henry Flagler completed the extension of his Florida East Coast Railroad from Miami to Key West. Construction of the highway began after the railroad ceased following a 1935 hurricane.
In 1982, 37 of the original bridges including the Seven Mile Bridge were replaced with wider spans. Most of the historic bridges still stand alongside the newer ones and now serve as fishing pier
As well as the Overseas Highway in the Florida Keys
, officials announced four other All-American Roads. They are Historic Route 66 in Arizona, Maine's Acadia All-American Road Trenton Extension, the Harriet Tubman Underground Railroad Byway in Maryland and Michigan's Woodward Avenue (M-1) Automotive Heritage Trail.
Three other Florida roads were recognized as new National Scenic Byways including the Florida Black Bear Scenic Byway in the state's north central region, the Ormond Scenic Loop & Trail in the central east part of the state and the Big Bend Scenic Byway in the Panhandle.