by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes
The number of vehicles crossing the Sanibel Causeway last year was the lowest since 2011 and the decline continued into January. A report supplied to the City of Sanibel by Lee County, which owns and operates the bridge, showed just over 2.9 million vehicles were counted in 2020 compared to the 3.3 million in 2019.
The report also showed the number of vehicles counted at the toll booths was down by 11 percent in January or a difference of 35,537 vehicles compared to the same month last year. The highest recorded traffic in January was in 2001 when 322,154 vehicles were counted. January 2020 was just 3,839 below the record.
The number of vehicles counted in January and February 2020 was up over the same time the prior year, before the island began feeling the effects of the health pandemic in March. Traffic has steadily dropped since then with the exception of September, when 11,000 more vehicles were counted than in September 2019 – typically one of the slowest month of the year.
The reduction in traffic means a revenue loss for the city, which receives 21 percent of the net toll receipts from the county. However, traffic may be on the rise again. The Sanibel Police Department issued its first heavy traffic advisory of the year on Thursday, Feb. 25, when 5,400 vehicles crossed the scenic bridge before 11:30 a.m. that day.