- The longest bridge in Maryland is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
- The bridge is called the Chesapeake Bay Bridge because it spans the Chesapeake Bay and consists of two spans with a mixed design.
- The Chesapeake Bay Bridge spans an exceptional distance of 4.33 to 4.35 miles, connecting the eastern and western shores of the state.
Maryland features stunning scenery, which ranges from mountains and plateaus to sandy dunes and marshland. It also boasts extensive waterways, most of which belong to the Chesapeake Bay watershed. For years, the Chesapeake’s importance to the region was reflected in its old official nickname, the Bay State.
Although Maryland ranks as the 9th smallest state in the United States, it also claims the title of the 5th most densely populated. To traverse its varied terrain, residents and visitors alike must travel along the state’s many bridges and causeways. That said, which bridge in the state ranks as the longest?
Read on to learn all about the longest bridge in Maryland!
What is the Longest Bridge in Maryland?
The longest bridge in Maryland is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. A dual-span bridge of mixed design, the bridge spans the Chesapeake Bay, hence its name. It connects the state’s Eastern Shore with Western Shore at Queen Anne’s County and Anne Arundel County, respectively. The bridge measures 4.35 miles long when traveling eastbound and 4.33 miles long when traveling westbound. At that length, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge also ranks as one of the largest bridges in the entire United States.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge carries lanes of both US Route 50 and US Route 301. Its eastbound portion measures around 28 feet wide, while its westbound portion measures 38 feet wide. Meanwhile, its eastbound portion stands 354 feet tall at its tallest point, while its westbound portion stands 379 feet high at its tallest point. The majority of the bridge stretches above the Chesapeake Bay, which lies approximately 186 feet below.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge incorporates several different design elements. Its eastbound portion is a cantilever bridge, while its westbound portion consists of a continuous truss bridge. Additionally, both stretches feature numerous suspension bridges. Each day, nearly 61,000 vehicles use the bridge, for which they pay a $4.00 toll.
History of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Prior to the 20th century, the only way to cross the Chesapeake Bay was by ferry. Near the end of the 19th century, plans began to circulate about building a bridge across the bay. However, the first official project to finance a bridge across the bay did not get approval until 1927. Unfortunately, the stock market crash of 1929 meant that financing for the project dried up. It would be another 25 years before plans for a bridge over the Chesapeake came to fruition.
In 1938, the Maryland General Assembly approved the construction of a bridge connecting Annapolis and Stevensville. However, construction was again delayed for several years due to the financial and labor pressures brought on by World War II. Maryland Governor William Preston Lane Jr. authorized the Maryland State Roads Commission to begin construction of the bridge in 1947. Workers broke ground on the project in 1949, and construction finished 3 and a half years later in 1952. In 1967, the bridge was officially renamed the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge after the death of Governor Lane a year earlier.
Increasing traffic over the decades immediately after the bridge’s construction led to cries for a solution. In 1967, the Maryland General Assembly approved the expansion of the existing bridge. Construction began in 1969 and was completed in 1973, adding the modern westbound span to the bridge alongside the existing span, which now functions as the eastbound span.
Due to its length and structure, the bridge is quite susceptible to weather-related incidents. High winds and hurricanes have forced the bridge to shut down for stretches of time at several points during its history. Additionally, many who use the bridge frequently mention that it is harrowing to travel due to its narrowness and low guardrails.
Where is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge on a Map?
The western span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge ends in Sandy Point State Park just northeast of the city of Annapolis. Meanwhile, its eastern terminus lies in Stevensville on Kent Island.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge accommodates both US Route 50 and US Route 301. As part of US Route 50, it connects Baltimore and Washington D.C. with Ocean City, Maryland, and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. It also connects Washington, D.C., with northern Delaware via US Route 301.
Wildlife You Can Find Around the Chesapeake Bay Bridge
Maryland is home to a wide variety of mammals, reptiles, amphibians, and birds. The western terminus of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge ends in Sandy Pointe State Park, which supports birds such as gulls, ducks, loons, and cormorants. Near its eastern terminus, you can find various animals, including groundhogs, foxes, raccoons, squirrels, and opossums.
- Chesapeake blue crab
- Horseshoe crab
- Grass shrimp
- Striped bass
- Bull shark
- Zebra mussel
- Red drum
- Cownose ray
- Atlantic sturgeon
- American shad
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge is the longest bridge in Maryland. This massive 4.33 to 4.35-mile-long bridge connects the eastern and western shores of the state and was once ranked as the longest continuous over-water steel structure in the world. Although it no longer holds this title, it still stands as an impressive structure and feat of human engineering.
The photo featured at the top of this post is © Mihai_Andritoiu/Shutterstock.com
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