The Bay Bridge Turns 50

My least favorite part of going to one of my favorite vacation destinations, Rehobeth Beach, Delaware, is crossing the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge–the so-called Chesapeake Bay Bridge, or just Bay Bridge to those who use it. The official Maryland government information page about the bridge is here. The UK newspaper The Guardian had a news story about the anniversary: Chesapeake Bay Bridge Marks 50 Years

I am not fond of bridges to begin with, but this monstrosity is truly creepy, looming like a long silver snake out over the water, just waiting to toss me and my unsuspecting car into the 80-foot deep waters of the Chesapeake Bay. The first time I made the trip, I wasn’t prepared for the experience, and by the end of the drive across (which only takes about 6 or so minutes when the traffic is moving–it just seems like an eternity) my palms were sweating and I was a mess.

The bridge is actually two bridges, one east-bound, the other west-bound. But sometimes they mix up the lanes, so you have two-way traffic on just one of the bridges. I’ve never decided which is worse, the new span, which has tall concrete barrier walls, so it is like driving in a narrow tunnel, or the older bridge, which has open slat sides, so you can see the water all around you. On my first trip to Rehobeth Beach, after the trip across, I was obsessed with how I was going to get back across. My technique: get as close to the center lane of the bridge as possible, look straight ahead at the license plate of the car in front of me, and just drive.

There is currently a renovation project for the bridge so traffic is really screwed up–for several years. My worst nightmare would be getting caught in a traffic jam on the top of this bridge. I would probably have to be sedated. It is apparently not uncommon for people to freak out at the top of the bridge, and the authorities have a service in which you can call ahead and get someone to drive you across. I did that once, but the idea of it offended my midwestern sensibility that it is silly to be afraid of a bridge. So the next time I used positive thinking and just drove across. Not pleasant, but I made it.

Please bring back the ferry.

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