Bay Bridge Opening

The Bay Bridge is one of the most easily recognized landmarks in all of Maryland.

Officially known as the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial Bridge, named after the governor who started the endeavor, the bridge changed the way of life for many Marylanders when it opened in July 1952. Prior to that, the only way the state’s Eastern shore could be reached was by boat or ferry.

An editorial in a January 1952 issue of The Star Democrat reflected on the change that was to come with the opening of the bridge later that year:

“For Talbot County and the entire peninsula, 1952 will be a year to be remembered. The opening of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge in July will mark the end of an era of relative isolation which has lasted for several centuries, and the beginning of a new era of closer integration with the remainder of the State. The bridge is bound to bring changes. Population is likely to increase. Our pattern of commerce will be altered. Tourist trade will flourish. Factories will seek branch locations on the peninsula. And as the area grows, local stores will face direct competition from branches of big-city stores and service establishments located here. Easton will be the hub of much of this development because of its central geographic location. But the entire area will feel the impact of the bridge.”

Spectators were treated to free bus rides over the $45 million suspension bridge on opening day. At the time, it was the third longest bridge in the world, according to an article in the Cumberland Evening Times covering the event. Tolls of $1.40 started to be charged at 5:01 p.m. on opening day, and it was estimated that 1,150,000 vehicles would use the bridge the first year, according to an article in the Morning Herald.

The Cumberland Evening Times article described how the bridge “…substitutes a 12-minute crossing for a ferry shuttle that has required 35 minutes, not counting waiting time that mounted into hours on summer weekends when cars backed up three or four miles.”

Now, six decades later, we continue to face that problem … while we’re waiting for the bridge!

Sources: Cumberland Evening Times, July 30, 1952; Morning Herald, July 30, 1952; Star Democrat, January 4, 1952

Photo: © Kurt Holter via

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