Before there was a bridge connecting the eastern and western shores of Maryland, travelers were relegated to riverboats which made the long, slow trek between the shores. Then, in Colonial times, ferries became the preferred mode of transportation across the bay. The only other alternative was to make the long journey on land around the northern portion of the bay.
Research into the feasibility of a bridge over Chesapeake Bay may have begun as early as the 1880s. However, the first formal proposal wasn’t submitted until 1907. In 1927, local business people received authorization to build the bridge, but the Wall Street Crash and subsequent Great Depression dashed those plans.
There were several more proposals over the years to follow, some of which were for railroad bridges, before the 1938 Chesapeake Bay Bridge proposal that was approved. Unfortunately, there was another delay. This time it was World War II. When the war ended in 1947, construction on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge finally began. It took well over a century to get there, but the Chesapeake Bridge opened to traffic on July 30, 1952.
At that time, the 4.3-mile-long bridge was the third longest in the world and the world’s longest continuous steel bridge over water. Then, in 1969, due to exponentially increased traffic, an expansion project was placed on the proverbial table. In 1969, construction of a parallel span began. In 1973, construction was completed; resulting in the major dual span bridge we know and love today.