1918 Bay Crossing Study: SPAN WOULD BRIDGE THE CHESAPEAKE

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Maryland Governor Emerson Harrington appointed a study committee in 1918, as shown in the article below from a Snow Hill, Maryland newspaper – the DEMOCRAT MESSENGER. The ferry above transited the Chesapeake Bay until 1952 when a bridge over the Chesapeake was finally built.

1918 Bay Crossing Study: SPAN WOULD BRIDGE THE CHESAPEAKE

Governor Harrington Having a Survey Made
– Bridge Would Cost Ten Million Dollars

DEMOCRAT MESSENGER

Snow Hill, Md. (Dec. 7, 1918) – At the request of Governor Harrington, Chairman Frank H. Zouck, of the State Roads Commission, is having surveys and plans made for a bridge that will connect Baltimore with the Eastern Shore, and ensure the retention of the present Eastern Shore trade to Baltimore and prevent further diversion of this trade to Philadelphia. Mr. Zouck has already done considerable preliminary work on the project, which, it is believed, can be put through at the cost of not more than $10,000,000 and possibly less.

Some such undertaking has been under discussion for many years; it crops up every now and then in the Legislature, and whenever the subject of the Eastern Shore trade comes up, a bridge or a ferry line is mentioned. In fact, a law has already been passed providing for a State ferry between the Eastern and Western shores, it is planned to run it from Annapolis to Claiborne, but the appropriation for it was not large enough to put it into operation. The bridge proposition has already been looked on as more or less chimerical. It has been figured out that the cost would be so tremendous that the State could never stand it, but these figures have been based on a bridge some distance down the bay, from somewhere in the neighborhood of Annapolis across to either Queen Anne’s or Talbot counties.

Chesapeake-Bay-Bridge-under-construction-as-car-ferry-travels-from-Sandy-Point-to-Eastern-Shore-in-1951

 Mr. Zouck, however, approaches the project from a different angle and proposes a bridge from the neighborhood of Bay Shore Park, across the narrow part of the bay, to near Tolchester, in Kent County. The Governor, in a letter to Mr. Zouck on the subject, mentions his interest in the connection of the two parts of the State, either by bridge or ferry, but states the greater advantages of a bridge are manifest, especially if it be built to furnish a roadway for motor traffic and also for railway and other traffic.

“The benefit to Baltimore city and the Eastern Shore and, secondarily, to the whole State,” he says, “would be more wonderful than we now see. Baltimore city, in my opinion, if her businesspeople are sufficiently alert and tactful, has an opportunity for future development superior to that of any other coastal city. Whether the cost will be prohibitive, I do not know, but I am sufficiently impressed, and I shall be much indebted to you if you and your force will have an estimate made of the possible cost of a bridge along the route you suggest. I have also appointed a committee to consult with you and advise upon the feasibility of such an undertaking.

This is the committee named by the Governor:

John M. Dennis

William H. Matthias

Hugh A. McMullen

Frank Zouck

J. Barry Mahool – Mayor of Baltimore from 1907 to 1911

Frank A. Furst

Jacob Epstein

William P. Jackson

John N. Mackall

John E. Greiner

Phillip Lee Goldsborough.

A. W. Thompson.

 J. E. Aldred

 Gen. Joseph B.  Seth

Jere H. Wheelwright

A letter from Mr. Zouck gives the Governor some data as to the location of the proposed structure, explains how it could be built and the distances that would be saved, he says:

“A bridge could be built from Bay Shore, which is eight miles from the new city limits and can be reached by a reasonably good road, as well as being the terminus of a fast electric line (there also being a steam railroad only several miles away) to the Kent county shore at a point about three miles south of Tolchester. “The bridge would be approximately 9 miles long. We have two locations in view, one being 8.8 miles long and the other nine- and one-half miles long.  The bridge could be built of a double-deck type carrying a steam road and an electric road underneath and trucks and automobiles and other vehicles on top. It would have two draws, one on the west side for sailing vessels and the other on the eastern side, near the Kent County line where the channel is 50 feet deep. The average depth of water would have to contend with in building the bridge would only be 15 feet. Eight and a half miles would have an average of 14 feet, and a half-mile would have an average depth of 50 feet.

Gov. Emerson C. Harrington II ferry from Claiborne to Romancoke Ferry now Adirondack

“This bridge would connect the entire Eastern Shore with Baltimore City and make it closer to the city than the Western Shore.

“If this bridge is built, Kent County will be just 16 miles from the new city limits, or about the distance from Reisterstown is from the present city limits.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge view to Western Shore from top of bridge MdTA photo

“Chestertown would be 32 miles from Baltimore, against 28 miles from Annapolis, and 40 miles to Washington.

“Centreville would be 47 miles from Baltimore, as against 48 miles to Frederick. Easton and Denton would be 68 and 64 miles from Baltimore, respectively, against 74 miles to Hagerstown.

“Salisbury, the largest city on the Eastern Shore, would be 117 miles from Baltimore, against the 110 miles to Cumberland.

“Ocean City, Maryland’s easternmost city, would be 150 miles from Baltimore, against 195 miles to Oakland, the westernmost city of the State.

Bridgetender’s house on Pocomoke City bridge

“This bridge should remove all possibilities of the trade of the Eastern Shore of Maryland and some of State of Delaware going to Philadelphia, instead of coming to Baltimore. For instance, Dover, the capital of Delaware, would only be 65 miles from Baltimore against the 75 miles to Philadelphia, and the greater part of Delaware would be closer to Baltimore than to Philadelphia.

Draw span yawns without a bridge on Choptank River. The old bridge is used as a state park and named for Baltimore Sun fishing writer Bill Burton. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo

The drawbridge spanning the Knapp’s Narrows Channel between the mainland and Tilghman Island, Maryland, is significant as a unique engineering type and for its historical and aesthetic connections to Tilghman Island. 

ELEVATION-WITH-SPAN-RAISED-3-4-WATERMAN-BOAT-GOING-THROUGH-Tilghman-Island-Bridge-Spanning-Knapps-Narrows-Tilghman-Talbot-County-MD

The bridge, which is eligible for listing in the National Register of Historic Places, has been a landmark in the region and should be preserved and interpreted. Constructed in 1934, it is Maryland’s only overhead counterweight bascule span and one of only fifteen moveable bridges throughout the state road network. This type of bridge a heel trunion rolling lift bridge with a counterweight suspended above the roadway was constructed at the Knapp’s Narrows site because of its ease and speed of operation. The bridge opened approximately 12,000 times a year, more often than most East Coast bridges. In 1995 it was determined that the Tilghman Island bridge would be replaced with a new structure. 

Chesapeake Bay Bridge. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo copyright 2020

The twin spans of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, the first opened to traffic in 1952 and the second in 1967, were both of far different construction and built high over the surface to avoid a draw span as anticipated in the above 1918 plan.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge view to the Eastern Shore of the Chesapeake Bay. Photo MdTA

Maryland is examing a possible third span across the Chesapeake Bay. The study is taking five years and costing $5 million.

The Bay Crossing Study includes scoping; purpose and need development; corridor alternative analysis and screening; traffic and environmental analyses; and public and agency involvement. Funded by toll dollars, the Bay Crossing Study Tier 1 began in 2016 and is expected to be complete in 2021.

The Maryland Transportation Authority (MDTA) owns, finances, operates and maintains the William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial (Bay) Bridge and is conducting the $5 million Bay Crossing Study.

Previous Bay Crossing Studies

Over the years, the MDTA has studied many issues affecting the William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial (Bay) Bridge (US 50/301), including transportation and safety needs, current and future bridge maintenance and costs and other transportation modes such as transit and ferry service. Links to these prior studies are provided below. The MDTA will incorporate relevant information from these previous studies into the current Chesapeake Bay Crossing Study: Tier 1 NEPA. It is important to note that much of the data and results from the prior studies will be updated for the current Chesapeake Bay Crossing Study.

Family that fishes together eats together. This family is walking out on the Bill Burton Fishing Pier. The pier is named for the renknowned Fishing Writer who advocated for the State of Maryland to retain the old Choptank River Bridge that carried traffic on Rt. 50 from Dorchester County to Talbot County, with millions of vehicles during it’s lifetime. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo
The Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park consists of all of the former bridge except the draw span which was removed to allow navigation by boats. The pier is accessible from both shores where parking is available. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY. (Fishing license required.)
The Bill Burton Fishing Pier State Park. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo
The late Baltimore Sun fishing writer Bill Burton advocated more public access to Maryland waters and when the State of Maryland decided to create a state park with the old Choptank River Bridge, it was named after Burton, shown here with Calvert County Commissioner Barbara Stinnett. THE CHESAPEAKE TODAY photo
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