The Florida Keys and Miami-Dade County are linked by one of the most controversial stretches of highways in the United States; the strip of US 1 called the 18 Mile Stretch. Why controversial? Because for decades the mainly two lane US 1 acted as a bottleneck for growth and for hurricane evacuation; a point of conflict within state land use planning and emergency management that kept the construction and development lobby at a high boil during an era of intense real estate pressure on fragile natural resources in the Keys. The battle whether or not to widen the 18 Mile Stretch finally concluded in 2009; the environmentalists lost and were sued to pay court costs of the government.
The widening of the stretch is nearly finished but the indignities are not. Now there is THE FENCE. The cyclone fence. The fence is an abomination. First of all, the fact of the fence, at all. One of the glories of driving down to the Keys was to be able to see free and clear to the public lands to the east and west; this is the only stretch of the Everglades that is visible anywhere along US 1 that once ran the length of the eastern Everglades in its entirety.
The land is barely above sea level, so the question that arises first of all why a cyclone fence at all? The answer, one suspects, is that some lobbyist in Tallahassee representing "The Cyclone Fence Cartel" inserted FDOT contract language requiring a cyclone fence to "protect the public". That is the first level of indignity, where no fence had been needed or wanted, before. Here is the second level: on the section of fence on US 1 in Monroe County's portion of the 18 Mile Stretch, the cyclone fence looks about six feet high. I'll say it twice so you keep this in your memory. On the Keys side of the 18 Mile Stretch the fence is about 6 feet high. It is stupid and unnecesary, but generally speaking "stupid" goes right well with decision makers in the Florida Keys. Here is a photo of what the Monroe County side of the fence looks like.
But stupid doesn't begin to describe the Miami-Dade section of the fence, twelve feet high AND TOPPED WITH BARBED WIRE. WTF? Why six feet in the Keys but twelve feet in Miami Dade plus barbed wire? Is this because fence vendors in Miami Dade are better organized than in the Keys? Because business in platted subdivisions sucks, they found a way to sell more fence by building a twelve foot fence and added a frosting of barbed wire to top it off?
It is an incredulous feeling, first distracted by the puke aquamarine concrete barrier that looks the color of a Miami Subs sign, then driving along the stretch that makes you feel like you are being funneled into an adult correctional facility. That's "progress", by Jove. Here's a photo to prove it:
Wasn't there someone, anyone, anywhere in government aware of the insult to intelligence they were authorizing, with the fence topped with barbed wire? Apparently, if there was, no one had the guts to stop it. That's pretty much the case in the dismantling of government everywhere these days: no one has the guts to stop the Republican nuts. Isn't this David Rivera's Congressional district? Or Ileana Ros Lehtinen? Doesn't one of them have the guts to tell them to tear down the freaking fence? For a hundred years we didn't need a fence on the 18 Mile Stretch and now we do? Because there is some danger lurking that the fence will stop? Maybe Democrats and trial lawyers. Or perhaps it is the teachers' fault. Anyhow if I am a visitor to the Florida Keys I'm thinking: what the hell is going on here?
I bet the fence is a business deal, a quid pro quo with a campaign contributor/fence mfg, and the barbed wire represents the expression of latent hatred of Miami Dade County politicians for the Everglades. Like Pepe Diaz, the county commissioner who owns part of a trailer park/future gambling destination bordering Everglades National Park wetlands in Key Largo. They hate government agencies who protect the Everglades and water quality and so they need the barbed wire to remind all the drivers on US 1. I expect they believe drivers need to be protected from alligators crawling up the cyclone fence. I suspect they believe all the do-good'ers who stopped the widening of the 18 Mile Stretch need to be fenced out from putting IED's in the roadway. I suspect the latent hatred springs from the not-so-latent desire to pave over every last scrap of land in South Florida whenever it becomes profitable.
But why, six feet tall in Monroe and twelve feet tall with barbed wire in Miami-Dade? The answer for that? Idiocy, pure and simple. Tear down the fence!