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_   Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
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Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
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Vital Statistics:
Location: Cape Charles and Virginia Beach, Virginia, USA
Completion Date: 1964
Cost: $200 million
Length: 89,760 feet (total length); 79,200 feet (bridge length)
Type: Beam, tunnel
Purpose: Roadway
Materials: Steel, concrete
Longest Single Span: 100 feet
Engineer(s): Sverdrup & Parcel

Distinguished as an "Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement" by the American Society of Civil Engineers in 1965, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is nothing short of a modern engineering wonder. Dipping over and under open waters with a complex chain of artificial islands, tunnels, and bridges, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge provides a direct link between Southeastern Virginia and the Delmarva Peninsula. The bridge-tunnel complex is 17.6 miles long from shore to shore, and it cuts 95 miles off the journey between Virginia Beach and points north of Wilmington, Delaware.

Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel
Click photo
for larger image.

The majority of the bridge-tunnel complex is above the water, supported by more than 5,000 piers. But due to the importance of shipping in the bay, the crossing was sunk deep beneath the bay in two mile-long tunnels to allow the passage of ships. Four artificial islands, each with approximately 10 acres of surface, provide the portals by which the road enters the tunnels. It's quite an eerie experience to be driving along and see the road you're on disappear into the bay. Millions of cars have crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel since it opened in 1965. It's possible that many just crossed it for the thrill of it!

Here's how this bridge stacks up against some of the longest-spanning bridges in the world. (total length, in feet)
Chart showing the relative size of the longest bridges in the world
Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel 89,760' (total length); 79,200' (bridge length)

Fast Facts:
  • There is a picture of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel on the cover of "The Way It Is," the first album by Bruce Hornsby and The Range.
  • Following its opening in 1964, the Bridge-Tunnel was selected as "One of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World" in a worldwide competition that included more than 100 major projects.
  • Since it opened in 1965, more than 67 million vehicles have crossed the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.
  • One artificial island actually has a gift shop, restrooms, and a parking lot to allow drivers to stretch, relax, and enjoy the scenic view.

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