Florida’s Turnpike, originally known as the Sunshine State Parkway opened in 1957 spanning 109 miles from the future Golden Glades Interchange north of Miami to Fort Pierce. It was the first limited-access road in the southeast United States outside of large urban areas. Since Florida was becoming a tourist haven, after World War II the decision to push for a Turnpike to connect the state was made by business leaders in the state. However, with the conservative “Pork Chop Gang” of rural North Florida legislators controlling governing in the state, this sort of visionary highway had to clear many hurdles and did not finally get approval until the mid 1950’s.
The Interstate Highway system didn’t come to Florida until the early 1960s. Even then the stretches of urban roads built in Miami, Tampa and Jacksonville didn’t connect to anything until the large stretches of rural interstate were completed in the 1970’s and 1980’s. Duval and Dade Counties had to take matters into their own hands to build urban freeways and both did a remarkable job of designing and ultimately building roads financed with local and state money.
The original stretch of the Sunshine State Parkway is shown in the below images from an official state map publication of the early 1960’s. The stretch from Fort Pierce to Orlando would open in 1964, and upward to Wildwood soon after. In 1988, the legislature authorized the extension of the Turnpike from Wildwood to Lebanon Station in Levy County to create quick access to US 19 heading north toward Tallahassee. That stretch was again authorized in 1999 but has never been funded. Talk of a second Turnpike from Jacksonville to Tampa was also contemplated at length in the 1980’s but eventually shelved. The southern portion of that proposed road now follow the path of the Suncoast Parkway which is managed by the Florida Turnpike Enterprise.
Images from the early 1960’s including a welcome letter from Governor Farris Bryant (the man responsible for the Turnpike going to Central Florida instead of up the East Coast toward Cape Canaveral, Daytona Beach and St Augustine as initially intended) are below.