Gator state turnpike

At $2.50 each way, plus $4 a gallon, Alligator Alley is already an expensive ride.

According to the Naples Daily News, that could change if the state moves forward to lease it to private investors.

Here’s the articles in case you missed them.

SPECIAL REPORT: Alligator Alley could fall into international hands

Phil Lewis: Numbers tell the tale of Alley lease proposal

Personally, I’m a big advocate of the Garden State Turnpike model.

That would mean a toll-booth every half mile.

As luck would have it, I was able to comb through my archives to root out a good bunch of my Alligator Alley aerials, for the 35 miles that pass through Big Cypress National Preserve. I mixed in some photos of alligators to make it more exciting, and also help it live up to its namesake.

It’s worth considering: what it is about Alligator Alley that makes it resonate as much as it does our collective consiousness, both regionally and nationally?

Some 10 years ago, when I was first packing my bags to embark on my incredible journey into the Florida Swamps, I was on the listening end of one wild-eyed account after another about “Alligator Alley this, and Alligator Alley that, and Alligator Alley so forth and so on” … and then I’d say how I was going to work as a hydrologist down in Big Cypress, next to the Everglades.

Their faces would go blank with a “where’s that?” look.

Alligator Alley had more name recognition than even the Everglades, let alone the Big Cypress Swamp.

Anyhow, ten years later, I often wonder if what they were calling Alligator Alley was actually the Tamiami Trail (which is my favorite: see post – Young 80 for old 41), or if they were refering to Alligator Alley when it was still the “Alligator Alley with teeth” version, not the dentured-down super highway version that transformed into during late 1980s.
Now they’re talking Starbucks!?! That’s good coffee, granted, but I’m not sure coffee and alligators mix well, if at all. (Not to mention that would add another $10 to the trip* — *prices may vary).

In that way, Alligator Alley means different things to different people.

To a tourist, its the alligators.

To a hydrologist, it’s the broad sweep of Mullet Slough that feeds pristine Big Cypress Swamp water into the Everglades.

To the wildlife biologist, it is its expanse of suitable habitat for the endangered Florida Panther, and the wildlife crossings and highway fencing that keeps them safe from becoming roadkill.

To the trucker, it’s the presence of Tamiami Trail to the south, which is free. Can you believe it, yet again another similarity between 80 year old Tamiami Trail and 125 year old Brooklyn Bridge. (See “Brooklyn Bridge into the glades.”) The Brooklyn Bridge is free, but alas parking in Manhatten is not: There is no such thing as a free lunch.

To a private investor, it’s the millions of dollars in annual revenue.
That makes me think about Alligator Alley’s dirty little secret — or at least one of them.
I’m talking about the State Road 29 access point.
That’s the back door that many a saavy traveler sneaks onto Alligator Alley for free — hydrologist, trucker, and tourist alike.
A consortium of private investors wouldn’t change a tiny little loop hole like that?
Would they?

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