John Ringling Causeway

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John Ringling Causeway
View of John Ringling Causeway in distance, overlooking Sarasota Bay facing northwest from recreational trail along Mound Street (US 41)
View of bridge and Sarasota Bay from the Sarasota Recreational Trail
Coordinates27°19′34″N 82°33′46″W / 27.3262°N 82.5628°W / 27.3262; -82.5628Coordinates: 27°19′34″N 82°33′46″W / 27.3262°N 82.5628°W / 27.3262; -82.5628
Carries4 lanes of SR 789 and pedestrians
CrossesSarasota Bay
LocaleSarasota, Florida
Official nameJohn Ringling Causeway
Other name(s)Ringling Bridge, Gil Waters Bridge
Named forJohn Ringling
OwnerFlorida Department of Transportation
Maintained byFlorida Department of Transportation
ID number170176
DesignSegmental box girder bridge
Total length3,097.04 ft (944 m)
Width106.35 ft (32 m)
Height60 ft (18 m)
No. of spans11
No. of lanes4
Construction start2001
Construction end2003
Construction cost$68 million
Opened1926 (original bridge)
1959 (drawbridge)
2003 (current bridge)
Daily traffic33,000 (2014)

John Ringling Causeway (also known as Ringling Bridge or Gil Waters Bridge)[1] is a bridge that extends past the Sarasota Bay, from Sarasota to St. Armand's Key and Lido Key. The 60-foot-tall (18 m) bridge, built in 2003, is a segmental box girder bridge named after John Ringling, one of the founders of the Ringling Brothers Circus and resident of the Sarasota area.[2]


The current bridge is the third bridge that has existed at its location. The first bridge was built in 1925 by John Ringling, who owned large tracts of land on both Lido and Longboat Keys. Wanting to develop the islands, Ringling built the first bridge for a price of $1 million to connect the islands with the mainland. The ornate bridge opened for traffic on January 1, 1926 and was quickly labelled "one of the greatest engineering accomplishments in the South” by the Sarasota Herald-Tribune, which also proclaimed “There are no words adequate with which to express our appreciation.”[2][3] Ringling donated the bridge to the city in 1927.

Around 1950, the first bridge began to show that it could not adequately handle increased traffic to the islands. In 1951, the State Road Department opted to replace the bridge with a four-lane drawbridge, which was completed and opened to traffic in 1959. The drawbridge was built at a cost of $20 million and the original bridge was subsequently demolished.

Around 2000, the aging drawbridge began to suffer the same fate as its predecessor. With the drawbridge opening as many as 18 times a day, it was unable to handle increasing amounts of traffic. To remedy the situation, construction began on the current high-span bridge in 2001. The 60 foot tall bridge opened for traffic in 2003 at a cost of $68 million. Landscaping around the bridge was financed by private donors.[3]


  1. ^ Ringling Bridge, Sarasota | Building 362001 | EMPORIS
  2. ^ a b LaHurd, Jeff (July 31, 2008). "Controversy, thy name is Ringling Causeway Bridge". Sarasota Herald-Tribune. Retrieved April 7, 2016.
  3. ^ a b Papini, Michelle. "The Remarkable History of John Ringling Causeway". Bird Key Real Estate. Retrieved April 7, 2016.