Completed in 1938, the Overseas Highway incorporates 42 bridges over the waters of the Atlantic Ocean, Florida Bay and the Gulf of Mexico. TheAll-American Road designation is the highest recognition possible under the National Scenic Byways program.
Only 30 other U.S. roadways have earned the prestigious title. Keys officials expect the accolade will lead to increased tourism and additional highway funding.
"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, which spearheaded a multiyear effort to achieve the distinction. "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 operating 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 piers for anglers.
Along with the Overseas Highway, 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.