William Preseton Lane, Jr.
Memorial Bridge...Then and Now
Maryland has many charms and the weekly summer exodus to the beaches on the eastern shore is among the most “charming.” No trip is complete without a drive over the Bay Bridge, formally known as the William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial Bridge. The dual-span structure was named in the former governor’s honor in 1967 and the second span was rededicated to him in 1973. Governor Lane’s vision of expanding and growing Maryland’s infrastructure was the continuation of work done by many governors before him.
In 1907, a private group floated a plan to bridge the bay between Baltimore and Tolchester Beach. The Merchants and Manufacturers Association of Baltimore—today’s Baltimore Chamber of Commerce—approved, but the plan never developed.
1918 brought another attempt to construct a double-deck rail and trolley bridge, but the lack of public financing and the ensuing stock market crash complicated the deal. Then, in 1931, the legislature authorized the Maryland-chartered Chesapeake Bay Bridge Company to build a bridge from Miller Island to Tolchester. Unfortunately, a timeline was placed on the project that would void the contract if work was not started and completed within seven years, and the company was forced to abandon the project in 1938.
By the time Governor Harry Nice was in office in 1937, the Legislature was studying massive plans for bridges and/or tunnels. Simultaneously, the State Roads Commission ordered a report, prepared by J.E. Greiner Company, to build up to four bridges around the state.
A Congressional act in 1938 gave the go-ahead to two or more of these crossings with financing to be a combination of bonds and tolls. The Potomac
William Preston Lane, Jr.
Memorial Bridge ...Then and Now
By Deirdre Flanagan
Insiders: PROFILERiver Bridge (today, the Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge) and the Susquehanna River Bridge (today, the Thomas J. Hatern Memorial Bridge) were grouped as one project and completed before WW ll. The war did ultimately delay the final construction of the bridge across the Bay.
Due in large measure to a successful ferry route, which ran from Sandy Point to the eastern shore, Sandy Point was selected to be the site of the new bridge. This decision, enacted during Governor lane’s administration in 1947, put all the wheels in motion. Route 50 was extended all the way to Ocean City, cementing the road that millions of Marylanders would eventually travel.
The contracts were signed and the groundwork began in 1948. On July 30, 1952, the 4.35-mile bridge, costing $45 million dollars, finally spanned the Chesapeake Bay.
The elegant lanes carried over two million vehicles the first year, making it apparent that at least one more bridge was needed. By 1957, the state decided to build a second span parallel to the first. This new bridge would be a steel arch span, as opposed to the cantilever-type suspension of the first. With a $138 million dollar price tag, the new three-lane span opened on June 28, 1973.
Today 65.000 cars cross and re-cross during the week, and those numbers rise to nearly 100,000 on summer weekends. EZ-Pass has improved the congestion, but as history has shown, it won’t be long before new commissions and new studies will dictate a new bridge to somewhere on the eastern shore.
In the meantime, Marylanders will continue to dream of crossing quickly and returning promptly...we can dream, can’t we?