Chesapeake Bay Bridge

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Not to be confused with Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Chesapeake Bay Bridge viewed from Sandy Point State Park.jpg
Both spans of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge (Gov. William Preston Lane Memorial Bridge) as seen from Sandy Point State Park
Coordinates 38°59′30″N 76°22′20″W / 38.99167°N 76.37222°W / 38.99167; -76.37222Coordinates: 38°59′30″N 76°22′20″W / 38.99167°N 76.37222°W / 38.99167; -76.37222
Carries 5 lanes of US 50 / US 301
(2 eastbound, 2 westbound, 1 reversible)
Crosses Chesapeake Bay
Locale Anne Arundel and Queen Anne's Counties, Maryland
Official name Gov. William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial Bridge
Other name(s) "Bay Bridge"
Maintained by Maryland Transportation Authority, State of Maryland
ID number AAZ050[1][2]
Design Cantilever bridge (Eastbound) Through arch bridge (Westbound) and Suspension bridge (Both spans).
Material steel, concrete
Total length

22,790 ft (6,946 m)

or 4.316 mi (6.946 km)
Width 28 ft (8.5 m) (eastbound)
38 ft (11.6 m) (westbound)
Longest span 1,600 ft (488 m)
Clearance below 186 ft (56.7 m)
Opened July 30, 1952; 64 years ago (1952-07-30) (eastbound)
June 28, 1973; 43 years ago (1973-06-28) (westbound)
Daily traffic 61,000

$4.00 (eastbound) (E-ZPass)

$2.50 (eastbound) (Maryland E-Z Pass)
Chesapeake Bay Bridge is located in Maryland
Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Location on a map of Maryland

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge (commonly known as the "Bay Bridge") is a major dual-span bridge in the U.S. state of Maryland. Spanning the Chesapeake Bay, it connects the state's rural Eastern Shore region with the urban Western Shore. The original span opened in 1952 and with a length of 4.3 miles (6.9 km), was the world's longest continuous over-water steel structure; the parallel span was added in 1973. The bridge is named the "Gov. William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial Bridge" after William Preston Lane, Jr. who, as Governor of Maryland, initiated its construction in the late 1940s after decades of political indecision.

The bridge is part of U.S. Routes 50 and 301, and serves as a vital link in both routes. As part of U.S. Route 50, it connects the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area with Ocean City, Maryland and other coastal tourist destinations. As part of U.S. Route 301, it serves as part of an alternate route for Interstate 95 travelers, between northern Delaware and the Washington, D.C. area. Because of this linkage, the bridge is busy and has become known as a point of traffic congestion, particularly during peak hours and summer months.


William Preston Lane, Jr. (1892–1967), 52nd Governor of Maryland for whom the bridge is named, stands on the original span shortly after construction was finished in July 1952.

Proposals and ferries[edit]

Studies exploring the possibility of building a bridge across the Chesapeake Bay may have been conducted as early as the 1880s.[3]

The first known proposal came about in 1907 and called for a crossing between Baltimore and Tolchester Beach; other proposals, occurring in the years 1918, 1919, 1926, and 1935, also called for a bridge in this location.[4] In 1927, local businesspeople were authorized to finance the construction of a Baltimore to Tolchester Beach crossing. Plans for the new bridge were made, but construction was canceled following the Stock Market Crash of 1929 with the collapse of the American economy and resulting Great Depression of the 1930s.[3]

Ferries were used as the main mode of transportation across the Bay from the colonial period until the completion of the 1952 Bridge. The first service ran from Annapolis to Broad Creek on Kent Island, roughly where the bridge is today.[5] In 1919, the Claiborne-Annapolis Ferry Company began running ferries between Annapolis and Claiborne, a community near St. Michaels.

The towns were named for the famous Virginia colonial leader and merchant, William Charles Cole Claiborne (c.1600–c.1677), who competed with the proprietary rulers of colonial Maryland, the Calverts and Lord Baltimores in the early 17th century for his trading post and network along the Chesapeake Bay. Established before the 1632 Royal Grant by Charles I, the King of England to Sir George Calvert, first Baron and Lord Baltimore (1579–1632), inherited by his son, Cecilius Calvert, second Lord Baltimore (1605–1675), Claiborne caused numerous controversies and trouble, eventually engaging in the first naval battle in British North America, off Kent Island.

In July 1930, the Claiborne-Annapolis Company added a new ferry route, one running from Annapolis to Matapeake, a significantly shorter distance. The auto and passenger ferries were taken over by the State Roads Commission in 1941 (reorganized into today's State Highway Administration of the Maryland Department of Transportation in 1973). Two years later the Roads Commission moved the western terminus of the Annapolis–Matapeake ferry to Sandy Point (later adjacent to Sandy Point State Park), shortening the cross-bay trip.

Construction of 1952 span[edit]

A 1938 proposal by the Maryland General Assembly was the first to call for a bridge at the Sandy Point-Kent Island location.[4] Although the legislation authorizing the new bridge passed, the involvement of the United States in World War II delayed the bridge's construction. In 1947, with the war over, the assembly, under the leadership of Maryland Governor William Preston Lane, Jr., passed legislation directing the State Roads Commission to begin construction.[3] Ground was broken in January 1949, and on July 30, 1952 the bridge opened to traffic[6] as both the longest continuous over-water steel structure, and the third longest bridge in the world.[7] On November 9, 1967, the bridge was dedicated to Governor Lane, who had died earlier that year, and officially renamed the William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial Bridge.

1973 expansion[edit]

Also in 1967, due to increasing traffic volumes, the Maryland General Assembly authorized three possible new crossings, all suggested during the 1964 Chesapeake Bay crossing study.[4] These included one near Baltimore, one in southern Maryland, and an additional span to be added to the existing bridge; ultimately, the third option was chosen. Construction of the new span began in 1969 to the north of the original span, and it was completed on June 28, 1973.[6]

Notable incidents[edit]

The Bay Bridge during 2003's Hurricane Isabel.
Police block traffic leading up to the Bay Bridge during Hurricane Isabel due to high winds.

Because of its height, the narrowness of the spans (there are no hard shoulders), the low guardrails, and the frequency of high winds, it is known as one of the scariest bridges in the USA[8] and the world.[9] Several incidents related to the bridge have occurred. In some cases, these have caused significant closures and traffic congestion on either side approaching the bridge.

The bridge has been closed four times due to extreme weather. The first time was September 18, 2003, during Hurricane Isabel and its high winds.[10][11] On August 27, 2011, the bridge was closed to all traffic due to the impacts of Hurricane Irene. Maryland Governor Martin O'Malley ordered the bridge closed when sustained winds exceeded 55 miles per hour. On October 29, 2012, the bridge was closed due to Hurricane Sandy.[12] On March 6, 2013, during the March 2013 nor'easter, high winds caused the bridge to be closed.[13]

On August 10, 2008, a tractor trailer involved in a head-on collision fell from the bridge; the driver died in the crash.[14] The incident has highlighted concern that the bridge may not be structurally safe, but the Maryland Transportation Authority discounted any structural problems with it.[15] Inspections of the wall in the weeks following the accident revealed that there was deterioration in the form of corrosion of the steel reinforcements inside barriers; this prompted immediate repairs to the wall.[16]

Specifications and operations[edit]

Chesapeake Bay Bridge from Sandy Point State Park
View of both spans from the Queen Anne's County side, in which the original 1952 span appears in front of the newer 1973 span.

With shore-to-shore lengths of 4.33 and 4.35 miles (6.97 and 7.00 km),[3] the two spans of the bridge form the longest fixed water crossing in Maryland and are also among the world's longest over-water structures. The bridge's western terminus is in Sandy Point State Park, located northeast of Annapolis in Anne Arundel County, and its eastern terminus is in Stevensville on Kent Island in Queen Anne's County.

Structural details[edit]

With the exception of the number of lanes on each (two on the original span and three on the newer span) and differences owing to the design standards for the periods in which they were built, the spans are structurally similar. Both were designed by J. E. Greiner Co.,[17] which later became a part of AECOM through the company's acquisition of URS Corporation. Each span features:

  • Two main spans over the bay's two shipping channels:
    • A 3,200-foot (975 m) suspension span over the western channel with a maximum clearance of 186 feet (56.7 m) – high enough to accommodate ocean-going vessels and tall ships
    • A through-truss cantilever span over the eastern channel with a maximum clearance of 58 feet (17.7 m)
  • Deck truss and steel girder spans flanking the main spans
  • Concrete beam spans on the portions closest to the shores
  • A curve near the western terminus, which is required so that the main spans cross the bay's shipping channels at 90 degrees per United States Army Corps of Engineers requirements[18]

Traffic control[edit]

The westbound span at sunset. The leftmost lane is closed to westbound traffic.

Traffic patterns on the bridge's five lanes can be adjusted via its lane control system, which consists of overhead lane control signals on both spans and approaches. Typically, the two lanes on the south span are configured for vehicles traveling east on eastbound U.S. 50/northbound U.S. 301, while the three lanes on the north span are configured for vehicles traveling west on westbound U.S. 50/southbound U.S. 301; the spans are therefore referred to as the "eastbound span" and "westbound span", respectively. However, this pattern is adjusted during incidents or peak travel times: for instance, on the outset of weekends when there is a high volume of beach-bound traffic, one lane on the westbound span is configured for eastbound traffic.

In 2006, pink markers were placed along the eastbound span to mark out the suggested following distance, similar to systems used in Minnesota and Pennsylvania. The markers are a part of the MDTA's "Pace Your Space" campaign to prevent vehicle collisions and traffic congestion due to tailgating on the bridge.[19][20]

In April 2013, changes were made to increase safety on the westbound span during two way operations: signs, pavement markings, and rumble strips were modified, and a buffer zone between the left and center lanes was created. As a result, motorists can no longer switch between the left and center lanes, whether or not two-way operations are in effect.[21][22]

Tolls and fees[edit]

Operated by the Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA), the bridge has a one-way toll of $4.00 for two axle vehicles; vehicles with a Maryland E-ZPass pay $2.50.[23] Previously the bridge had a one-way (eastbound) toll of $6.00 for two-axle vehicles (raised from $4 on July 1, 2013); vehicles with E-ZPass that were enrolled in the Bay Bridge Commuter Plan paid $2.10 (raised from $1 on July 1, 2013).[24]

The MdTA contracts with private companies to provide transportation across the bridge for nervous drivers (gephyrophobiacs) and cyclists; fees are $25 and $30 for drivers and cyclists, respectively.[25]

Bay Bridge Walk and Run[edit]

While there are no pedestrian facilities on the bridge, the Bay Bridge Walk and Governor's Bay Bridge Run used to afford an opportunity to cross the bridge on foot, usually on the first Sunday in May.[26] The events took place on the eastbound span, which was closed to vehicles while two-way traffic shared the westbound span. Participants started on the east end of the bridge (on Kent Island) and proceeded west to the finish near the toll plaza. WMATA and MTA transit buses transported participants between outlying parking areas and the start and finish points.

The run, a 10K race across the bridge, was held early in the morning before the walk. It was conducted by the Annapolis Striders, a local running organization, and controlled by the MdTA and Maryland Department of Natural Resources. Proceeds went to the Chesapeake Bay Trust in support of the bay.[27]

The walk was first held in 1975,[28] after a Boy Scout leader in Towson asked then-Governor Marvin Mandel if his troop could walk across the bridge while it was closed for maintenance.[26] The annual walk was canceled for the first time in 1980 due to poor weather conditions, and later saw frequent cancellations throughout the 2000s. During this period the walk was canceled in:

  • 2002 and 2007 due to poor weather conditions.[29][30]
  • 2003 and 2005 due to security concerns.[30]
  • 2008, 2009, and 2010 due to construction activity in the area on the west side of the bridge where participants would otherwise be staged.[31] Fiscal concerns were also cited as a contributing factor to the 2010 cancellation.[32]
  • 2011 due to fiscal concerns.[33]
  • 2012 for undisclosed reasons.[34]

Following its cancellation in 2005, the MDTA considered decreasing the annual frequency of the event, citing traffic, fiscal, manpower, and security concerns. The most recent event (held in 2006) cost over $350,000, and the cost estimate for 2012 was almost $400,000. In late 2011, a non-profit group, the Greater Washington Sports Alliance (GWSA), approached the MdTA Capital Committee to propose sponsoring the event, along with a concert at Sandy Point State Park, at no cost to the MdTA. While the Capital Committee unanimously recommended that the MdTA Board approve the proposal contingent upon an agreement between the GWSA and the MdTA, the 2012 event was ultimately cancelled.[35]

After increasingly consistent cancellations of the walking event, the MDTA, along with Queen Anne's County, contracted with an outside company to have a professional 10K race across the bridge which has been labeled the "Across the Bay 10K". The inaugural event occurred November 9, 2014.[36][37] The Race Director is Dave McGillivray,[38] who has served in that capacity for the B.A.A Boston Marathon since 1988. The Across the Bay 10K will have several charity beneficiaries including bay research and restoration as well as breast cancer research along with several others.[39][40]


In the years since the bridge's completion, Ocean City (pictured) has experienced significant growth.

Since its construction, the bridge has made significant impacts on both sides of the bay, among them has been the growth of Eastern Shore communities. When the bridge opened in 1952, and again when the second span was added in 1973, the Eastern Shore was given easier access to Baltimore and Washington, causing areas in southern Queen Anne's County to develop as bedroom communities. This extension of the Baltimore-Washington suburbs has led Queen Anne's County to be listed as part of the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area. The bridge has also given easier access to Ocean City from the Western Shore, which has caused Ocean City to grow from a small town to one that is said to become the second largest city in Maryland during the summer.[41]

In 1948, the impending completion of the bridge gave rise to an extension of U.S. Route 50 to Ocean City.[42] The route was extended along the corridor of Maryland Route 404 and a large portion of U.S. Route 213, cutting both of those routes back. During the 1950s, US 50 on the Western Shore was rerouted onto the long-proposed Annapolis-Washington Expressway (now known as the John Hanson Highway), which was built at the time in order to provide better access to the bridge.[43] As the Eastern Shore, particularly Ocean City, grew, further upgrades and realignments of US 50 took place. This work included the aforementioned 1973 completion of the second Bay Bridge span, the extension of the US 50 freeway eastward to the US 50/301 split in Queenstown, and the construction of a freeway bypass around the north side of Salisbury in 2002. Additionally, the road has been upgraded and realigned over the years from its original 2-lane configuration to a 4-lane divided highway, with the last such section being in Vienna, bypassed in 1991.[44] As of 2008, there are plans for further upgrades to US 50, including extending its freeway portion in Queen Anne's County to MD 404 outside of Wye Mills and replacing the aging Harry W. Kelly Memorial Bridge into Ocean City.[45]

Future expansion[edit]

Chesapeake Bay Bridge

In December 2004, a study concluded that traffic across the bridge was expected to increase by 40% by 2025. The following year, a task force formed by Maryland Governor Bob Ehrlich met to again explore the possibility of establishing a new Chesapeake Bay crossing.[46] The task force concluded that a bridge would be the best option for an additional crossing, and four geographic locations for such a bridge were explored: Baltimore County to Kent County, Anne Arundel County to Queen Anne's County (the existing location), Anne Arundel or Calvert County to Talbot County, and Calvert County to Dorchester County.[47] In late 2006, the task force released a report on the study but did not make a final recommendation; members of the task force requested additional time to continue the study.[48]


Panoramic view of the bridge, looking south, in which the two main spans (suspension at center and through truss at left) are visible. The towers with the "X"-shaped latticework are on the eastbound (1952) suspension span, while those with the horizontal crossmembers are on the westbound (1973) suspension span. Notice the difference in the locations of the anchoring points of the main cables: at water level for the eastbound span and at deck level atop large concrete piers for the westbound span.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Maryland State Highway Administration (2008). "Highway Location Reference: Anne Arundel County" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-02-24. 
  2. ^ Maryland State Highway Administration (2008). "Highway Location Reference: Queen Anne's County" (PDF). Retrieved 2010-02-24. 
  3. ^ a b c d "The William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge" (PDF). Maryland Transportation Authority. Retrieved 2007-10-26. 
  4. ^ a b c Kozel, Scott. "Chesapeake Bay Bridge History". Roads to the Future. Retrieved 2007-10-26. 
  5. ^ Gayman, Jennifer. "Kent Island". Maryland Online Encyclopedia. Retrieved 2007-11-18. 
  6. ^ a b "William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bay Bridge – History". Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  7. ^ "William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bay Bridge – Engineering Feats". Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  8. ^ "Don't look down! The Maryland bridge so terrifying locals pay $25 to be driven across in their own car". Daily Mail. 27 May 2013. Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  9. ^ "World's Scariest Bridges". Travel and Leisure. October 2010. Retrieved 2013-09-02. 
  10. ^ "Hurricane Isabel photo log". Indepth:Forces of Nature. CBC News. September 18, 2003. Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  11. ^ Martin, Patrick (September 25, 2003). "US: Millions still without power a week after Hurricane Isabel". World Socialist Website. Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  12. ^ "Chesapeake Bay Bridge Now Closed". WBOC TV. Retrieved 29 October 2012. 
  13. ^ "High winds force closure of Chesapeake Bay Bridge". Delaware Online. March 6, 2013. Retrieved March 19, 2013. 
  14. ^ St. George, Donna; Birnbaum, Michael (August 11, 2008). "Traffic Continues to Stall on Bay Bridge". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2008-08-11. 
  15. ^ May, Adam (2008-08-11). "Eastbound Right Lane Reopens On Bay Bridge". WJZ. Retrieved 2008-08-12. 
  16. ^ Dominguez, Alex (August 27, 2008). "Bay Bridge walls had corrosion, tests show". The Free Lance-Star. Retrieved 2008-08-30. 
  17. ^ Legler, Dixie; Highsmith, Carol (2002). Historic Bridges of Maryland. Crownsville, Md.: Maryland Historic Trust. p. 46. ISBN 1-878399-80-2. 
  18. ^ "William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge – Fun Facts [Family Fun]". Maryland Transportation Authority. Retrieved 2007-10-09. 
  19. ^ "SAFETY TIPS for traveling the Bay Bridge". Maryland Transportation Authority. Retrieved 2007-10-09. 
  20. ^ Gramlich, John (July 7, 2006). "State DOTs hope drivers see dots". Stateline.Org. 
  21. ^ "Plans made to enhance two-way traffic operations on Chesapeake Bay Bridge". WBAL TV. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  22. ^ Thomson, Candy. "Bay Bridge getting rumble strips, safety buffer zone". Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 18 June 2013. 
  23. ^ "Toll Rates". 
  24. ^ "Toll Rates for the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial (Bay) Bridge (US 50/301)". Retrieved 2014-07-10. 
  25. ^ "Safe Travel Tips". Maryland Transportation Authority. Retrieved 2009-11-30. 
  26. ^ a b "Governor O'Malley Announces Plans to Host 2007 Bay Bridge Walk" (Press release). Maryland Department of Transportation. 2007-02-23. Retrieved 2008-09-01. The first Sunday in May means Bay Bridge Walk 
  27. ^ "The 22nd Governor's Bay Bridge Run". Annapolis Striders. Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  28. ^ Kozel, Scott. "Chesapeake Bay Bridge Walk". Roads to the Future. Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  29. ^ Schuyler, Jim (May 6, 2007). "High Winds Cancel Bay Bridge Walk". WJZ-TV. Archived from the original on 2007-12-27. Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  30. ^ a b Yanovits, Dave (May 7, 2007). "Race Canceled for 4th Time in Six Years". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  31. ^ "Bay Bridge Walk Canceled for 2008, 2009". WTOP News. December 6, 2007. Retrieved 2008-02-06. 
  32. ^ Basch, Michelle. "Bay Bridge Walk cancelled for 4th year in a row". WTOP. Retrieved 2010-03-14. 
  33. ^ Eric Willison (14 April 2015). "Bay Bridge – Maryland Transportation Authority". 
  34. ^ "No Bridge Walk Scheduled in 2012". Maryland Transportation Authority. 
  35. ^ "Monthly Capital Meeting Minutes for October 13, 2011" (PDF). Maryland Transportation Authority. 
  36. ^ "Just Announced: 10K Race Across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge". Delmarva Town Crier. March 27, 2013. Retrieved July 23, 2013. 
  37. ^ Shatz, Jordan (April 2, 2013). "Officials say OK to bridge 10K". Retrieved July 23, 2013. 
  38. ^ "McGillivray to Direct 10K Across the Bay". Running USA. July 17, 2013. Retrieved July 23, 2013. 
  39. ^ "Registration Opens for 'Across the Bay 10K' Chesapeake Bay Bridge Run Today". Wisdom Digital Media. November 9, 2013. Retrieved December 5, 2013. Runners are encouraged to fundraise for charity and last week two charities were selected to benefit from the race 
  40. ^ "Race Charity Partners". CBBR. Retrieved December 5, 2013. 
  41. ^ Johnson, Darragh; Hernandez, Nelson (July 30, 2002). "Spanning Half a Century". The Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-10-09. 
  42. ^ "End of U.S. highway 50". August 10, 2007. Archived from the original on 2009-07-29. Retrieved 2007-11-16. 
  43. ^ Anderson, Steve. "John Hanson Highway". Retrieved 2008-02-06. 
  44. ^ Dukes, Corey (August 1, 2007). "Abandoned US 50 / US 213 – Vienna, MD". Delmarva Highways. Retrieved 2007-10-09. 
  45. ^ Dukes, Corey (January 19, 2004). "Ocean Gateway – Ocean City, MD to MD 90 Interchange". Delmarva Highways. Archived from the original on September 27, 2007. Retrieved 2007-10-09. 
  46. ^ Berman, Dori (June 27, 2005). "Task force says second Chesapeake Bay bridge is best option". The Baltimore Daily Record. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  47. ^ "Meeting #2: Bridge, Traffic, and Highway Issues" (PDF). Maryland Transportation Authority. Archived from the original (pdf) on 2007-01-24. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 
  48. ^ Wyatt, Kristen (August 29, 2006). "Bay Bridge Report Released without Recommendation". WTOP news. Retrieved 2008-02-05. 

External links[edit]