by SC Publisher 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.
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 mysanibel.com 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.