Golden Age

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel turns 50.

Getting from point A to point Bis simple, right? Now consider crossing 17 miles of open water where the mighty Atlantic muscles into the Chesapeake Bay. On April 15, 1964, after 43 months of construction under fierce conditions that included a hurricane and the legendary Ash Wednesday Storm of ’62, this amazing challenge was met. Soon after opening, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel was heralded as one of the “Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World.” Along with vision and grit, its construction took 2,000 workers. Seven would lose their lives in the effort.  

“For centuries, man had dreamed of bridging the Virginia Capes with a fixed crossing and with the opening of this facility began a new era,” says Jeff Holland, executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge and Tunnel District. “It eliminated the last water barrier of the East Coast’s ocean highway.”

Fifty years later, its golden anniversary is worth celebrating. Including the completion in April 1999 of a parallel crossing that expanded the facility from two to four lanes, today the 21-mile span includes more than 12 miles of low-level trestle roadway, two one-mile tunnels, two bridges, almost two miles of causeway and four manmade islands. More than 116 million commercial and passenger vehicles have crossed the Bridge-Tunnel. And it’s not finished. A true parallel crossing with two new tunnels is needed for improved safety and traffic flow, says Transportation Secretary Aubrey Layne. The first—the Thimble Shoals Tunnel Project—is slated for completion in 2020 at an estimated cost of $795 million. (There is no timeline for the final tunnel.)

CBBT.com

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