Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge

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Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge
Coordinates 38°21′42″N 76°59′36″W / 38.3618°N 76.9934°W / 38.3618; -76.9934Coordinates: 38°21′42″N 76°59′36″W / 38.3618°N 76.9934°W / 38.3618; -76.9934
Carries 2 lanes of US 301
Crosses Potomac River
Locale Dahlgren, Virginia and Newburg, Maryland
Maintained by Maryland Transportation Authority
Design Continuous truss bridge
Total length 1.7 mi (2.7 km)[1]
Clearance below 135 ft (41 m)[1]
Designer J. E. Greiner Company[2]
Construction start March 1938[1]
Construction cost $5 million[1]
Opened December 1940[1]
Daily traffic 17,500 (2014)[1]
Toll $6.00 (southbound) per two-axle vehicle beginning July 1, 2013; E-ZPass accepted

The Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge, also known as the Potomac River Bridge, is a 1.7-mile (2.7 km), two-lane continuous truss bridge that spans the Potomac River between Newburg in Charles County, Maryland and Dahlgren in King George County, Virginia, United States.[3] The bridge is narrow (one 11-foot (3.4 m) lane in each direction with no shoulders), steep (up to 3.75 percent grade), and has a reduced speed limit (50 mph on the main span, even slower through the toll gates and plaza).[4] By contrast, the approach roads on both sides of the bridge feature four 12-foot (3.7 m) lanes (2 in each direction), full shoulders, and 55 mph speed limits. This combination forces vehicles to slow and merge as they cross the bridge, which often results in backups.

This two lane bridge carries U.S. Route 301, which is a spur of U.S. Route 1 and a popular north-south alternative for bypassing the Baltimore-Washington Metropolitan Area and its frequently congested roads such as Interstate 95, Interstate 495 (Capital Beltway), and the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to the north along the Potomac River. The traffic growth/volume in Southern Maryland has led to congestion and delays, especially on holidays and weekends.[5] In 2014, the bridge handled approximately 6.4 million vehicles, with a daily average of approximately 17,500.[1]

It is one of eight toll facilities operated by the Maryland Transportation Authority, and is one of two toll bridges over the Potomac River. The other, the privately owned Oldtown Low Water Toll Bridge, connects Maryland and West Virginia, far upstream.[6]


President Franklin D. Roosevelt presided over the ground-breaking ceremony for the bridge in 1938.[1] Known as the Potomac River Bridge when opened in December 1940, the bridge was renamed in 1967 for Harry W. Nice (1877–1941) who served as governor of Maryland from 1935 to 1939.[7][8] The bridge was the first south of Washington, DC to provide a highway link between Maryland and Virginia.[9][10]

A photograph of the Harry W. Nice Bridge taken from Virginia. The border with Maryland is at the foreground shoreline.


In June 2006, the Maryland Transportation Authority initiated the Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge Improvement Project.[11] This project is exploring upgrade/replacement of the main span, which is a bottleneck as the bridge is only two lanes, whereas U.S. Route 301 is a four lane divided highway in both Maryland and Virginia. As of June 2007, it was in the planning stage. In December 2007, the Washington Post reported that six alternatives had been identified.[12] In December 2012, it was reported that the MdTA completed a study of the Nice Bridge and received approval from the federal government to replace the current structure with a span with four lanes and a bike/pedestrian path, to be located just north of the existing bridge, which will be removed upon completion of the replacement crossing.[13] The MdTA estimated the cost of a replacement span at about $850 million, but funding is not currently identified.[14] The project is being coordinated with the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), and is proceeding in conjunction with the Maryland State Highway Administration's U.S. Route 301 South Corridor Transportation Study[15] and the U.S. Route 301 Waldorf Area Transportation Improvements Project.[16]

On Nov 21, 2013, Governor Martin O’Malley announced that the MD Transportation Authority (MDTA) Board has approved an additional $50 million in its final six-year capital program (FY 2014 – FY 2019) to fund initial design and right-of-way acquisition for the project to replace the Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge (US 301), which connects Charles County, Maryland and King George County, Virginia, across the Potomac River. The planning phase of the project was completed in fall 2012. The selected alternative consists of a new four-lane bridge built parallel to, and north of, the existing bridge, which would be removed upon completion of the new bridge. Opposition to a new bridge from Governor Larry Hogan had prevented construction from being scheduled.[17] However, on November 21, 2016, the Maryland Transportation Authority Board voted unanimously to build a new, 4-lane bridge just north of the current structure. Construction is scheduled to start in 2020 with completion set for 2023. The approved bridge design has several design alterations which shave more than $200 million from the originally projected price of around $1 billion, allowing Governor Hogan to shift his support in favor of the bridge. [18]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h "Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge (US 301)". Maryland Transportation Authority. n.d. Archived from the original on January 18, 2017. Retrieved May 2, 2017. 
  2. ^ "Bridge Builders and Designers Active in Maryland" (PDF). Maryland State Archives, Special Collections. Retrieved 2018-01-03. 
  3. ^ "MdTA toll facilities: southern region: Nice Bridge". Maryland Transportation Authority. Archived from the original on 2011-10-09. 
  4. ^ "Roadway Design and Features". Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge Improvement Project. Maryland Transportation Authority. Archived from the original on December 11, 2007. Retrieved June 16, 2007. 
  5. ^ "Bridge Maintenance". Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge Improvement Project. Maryland Transportation Authority. Archived from the original on December 11, 2007. Retrieved June 16, 2007. 
  6. ^ Samuel, Peter. "Oldtown Bridge MD-WV facing major regulatory problems for toll hike". Tollroads News. Archived from the original on 16 January 2016. Retrieved 4 January 2016. 
  7. ^ "Harry W. Nice, MSA SC 3520-1481". Maryland Manual On-Line. Maryland State Archives. March 14, 2001. Retrieved January 5, 2018. 
  8. ^ "Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge". Civil Engineering in Maryland. The Johns Hopkins University. Archived from the original on June 8, 2007. 
  9. ^ "Project Overview and Background". Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge Improvement Project. 
  10. ^ "The Governor Harry W. Nice Bridge". St. Mary's Today Online Edition. Archived from the original on 2007-08-17. 
  11. ^ "Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge Improvement Project". Maryland Transportation Authority. 
  12. ^ Greenwell, Megan (2007-12-09). "6 Possible Paths for Cramped Md. Span". Washington Post. Retrieved 2007-12-23. 
  13. ^ Samuel, Peter (2012-12-20). "New Nice Bridge MD-VA moves forward". TOLLROADSnews. Archived from the original on 2013-03-18. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  14. ^ "FHWA SIGNS OFF ON NICE BRIDGE PLANNING STUDY (press release)". Maryland Transportation Authority. 2012-12-20. Retrieved 2012-12-26. 
  15. ^ "2007-2012 Consolidated Transportation Program — State Highway Administration (SHA) Summary — Charles County" (PDF). Maryland Transportation Authority. February 4, 2007. Archived from the original (PDF) on September 28, 2007. 
  16. ^ "Related Projects". Governor Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge Improvement Project. 
  17. ^ Dresser, Michael (2016-03-13). "Hogan administration says Nice Bridge will last another 30 years. It might have to". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved 2016-07-22.  
  18. ^ "Md. board approves building new $765M Harry Nice bridge". WTOP-FM. 2016-11-21. Retrieved 2016-11-22.  

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