Feb. 7, 1926 — The first causeway opened to the public. John Ringling spent $1 million to build the bridge but donated it to the city for maintenance.
1958 — A new drawbridge opened to traffic. One year later, the remains of the original bridge were torn down.
1990-1991 — The drawbridge got stuck in an open position on multiple occasions, prompting discussion about whether to repair or replace the bridge.
November 1992 — The Sarasota City Commission and Longboat Key Town Commission passed a nonbinding resolution during a joint meeting to endorse replacing the bridge.
January 1993 — The Florida Department of Transportation (FDOT) presented three alternatives during a series of community meetings: a 21-foot-high drawbridge identical to the existing bridge, a 45-foot-high drawbridge and a 65-foot-high drawbridge.
July 1997 — Sarasota city staffers presented a compromise plan to FDOT’s 65-foot-high bridge: a 48-foot drawbridge that would reduce bridge openings by 53%. FDOT rejected the compromise.
August 1997 — The Sarasota City Commission prepared a legal position for the city on the replacement of the bridge. An attorney collected thousands of FDOT documents, revealing that the agency started planning for the fixed-span bridge before the public-comment period ended. That finding formed the basis for a city lawsuit against FDOT.
April 1998 — The city filed a petition challenging the state’s approval of the fixed-span bridge.
September 1999 — A judge ruled that FDOT acted properly in approving the bridge.
September 2000 — The U.S. Coast Guard issued a construction permit.
April 2001 — The First District Court of Appeals in Tallahassee affirmed the FDOT process leading up to the fixed-span bridge. The ruling meant that FDOT was allowed to begin construction.
August 2001 — PCL Civil Constructors Inc. began the design-build process.
Aug. 31, 2003 — More than 2,400 people participated in the 5K and 10K runs to celebrate the opening of the John Ringling Causeway Bridge.
Sept. 15, 2003 — The new bridge opened to traffic around 3 a.m. The opening was delayed by one day because of rain.
October 2003 — The demolition of the old drawbridge began.
August 2008 — After a petition circulated to change the name of the John Ringling Causeway Bridge to the Gil Waters Bridge, the Sarasota City Commission opted to keep the name, but put up a plaque to recognize Waters for his vision.
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