Sanibel Traffic Back To Pre-Pandemic Times; Setting Records

by SC Publisher Shannen Hayes

Motorists sit in traffic Tuesday, Dec. 28 on Periwinkle Way near the Casa Ybel Road intersection. SC photo by Shannen Hayes

Traffic on Sanibel has roared back in 2021, after an 11 percent decline from the health pandemic last year compared to 2019, and could set a new annual record. The latest Sanibel Causeway toll report from Lee County shows 3,227,868 vehicles were counted through November, which is close to pre-pandemic times.

In 2019, a total of 3,338,811 vehicles crossed the scenic bridge connecting the island to the mainland and it’s likely this year will surpass that number with one month outstanding. Historically, December counts are in the 200,000 range and four days this week the city has issued advisories triggered by a high volume of traffic coming to the island.

The number of vehicles crossing the bridge reached historic highs this year with May, June, July, September and October breaking records by 7,000 to 10,000 vehicles. Although June and July hit 300,000 vehicles for the first time, an increase of about 40,000 vehicles for those typically quieter months.

November recorded 281,379 vehicles, a 16 percent increase over the same month last year and 5.5 percent higher than 2019. But the highest count for that month was 21 years ago with 284,445 vehicles. Overall traffic was up 19.68 percent through November compared to the same time last year, but just 3 percent shy of the 2019 total count.


(Motorists wait Tuesday, Dec. 28 on Periwinkle Way at the Casa Ybel Road intersection)

The record-breaking traffic reflects the summer tourism boom reported last month by the Lee County Visitor & Convention Bureau. The VCB study showed 27 percent of the nearly 1.2 million visitors to the county from July to September stayed on Sanibel.

Anyone who wants to avoid sitting in traffic on the island can download the free Sanibel Bound app, which gives real-time traffic conditions. Or go to for a live streaming feed of the Sanibel Causeway and key Periwinkle intersections.

The December causeway toll report with a tally for the year will be released in February by the county, which owns and operates the scenic bridge.


Comments (1)

  1. Since Sanibel/Captiva still has power lines above ground what about using that space and power to install cabriolet/gondola concept to enhance the move of traffic w/o cars. ??? Each gondola could be a shell, keeping cars to those who must have a car. Sounds like Disney but I think if done right could be a tourist attraction and also keeping shoppers shopping w/o the use of cars. If one gondola wants to stop for shopping it selects the turn off and the gondola goes around a track, drops them off and continues back on the line. This is easily done around the world at ski resorts and other type of resorts to move people from place to place. Same could be done here. Gondolas can be energy efficient, and at high speeds, close to speed limit on Sanibel. There could be an express for those working on the island. ??? Ideas to explore. Especially since all power lines are above ground. You have the land. I feel this would pay for itself in no time. Parking would be another issue but Instead of driving everywhere, rather be above the cars in a gondola /open cabriolet , than sitting in traffic for 2 hours. Sanibel/Captiva needs an option I also see high speed hydrofoils/taking workers to different locations around island. Bring back the ferry w/o cars. Just bikes, Ferry makes stops in different locations, sells lunch above for scenic tours. the hop on/off for the island. the price of such would pay for the ferry. Just keep thinking. Something will click.

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