Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel History and Fun Facts. 

February 7, 2022

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel is an engineering marvel that offers its travelers stunning views of the Bay via its 17.6-miles. Also known as Route 13, it’s the primary roadway between Virginia’s mainland and the Eastern Shore. And for those flying into Norfolk International Airport, it’s the thoroughfare you’ll take to visit our beautiful hometown of Cape Charles. But given its somewhat odd name, you may be wondering – is it a bridge…or a tunnel? Amazingly, it’s both. Read on to learn how that’s possible, along with its fascinating history and a few fun facts about this unique roadway.

The history of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel

Starting in the early 1930s, the only way to get from the Norfolk/Virginia Beach area to Virginia’s Eastern Shore was via private ferry service. As the ferry service became increasingly busy with passengers, the need for a faster, fixed crossing became apparent. Utilizing revenue from bonds, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel construction began in late 1960, and 42 months later, the Bridge-Tunnel opened to traffic in April 1964. The new thoroughfare proved highly successful, and the old ferry service was discontinued. In fact, the new roadway was so popular that a parallel span was completed in 1999, which created separate northbound and southbound lanes.

Fun fact: No federal, state, or local taxes were used to construct the Bridge-Tunnel.

But is it a bridge, or is it a tunnel?

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel was so named because it actually includes both bridges and tunnels throughout its 17.6-miles. When crossing it, you’ll experience a series of low-level trestles as well as two nearly one-mile-long tunnels. In all, there are:

  • 12 miles of low-level trestle
  • Two one-mile-long tunnels
  • Two bridges
  • Two miles of causeway (raised roadway)
  • Four man-made islands
  • Five-and-a-half miles of approach roads

Fun fact: As of January 2021, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel has had more than 140 million vehicle crossings.

What’s the future of Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel?

Construction is currently underway to add a second tunnel beside the existing tunnel located on the southern end (at the Thimble Shoals area), with estimated completion in 2023. There is also a third expansion in the works for a parallel Chesapeake Channel Tunnel at the northern end of the roadway. Once that project is complete, the entire length of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel will become a four-lane highway from shore to shore.

Fun fact: It takes approximately 25 minutes to cross the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.

A destination itself, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel was once considered one of seven global engineering wonders of the world. And since it takes less than 30 minutes to traverse, why not experience the magnificence of it for yourself? You’ll embark on a journey that sets the scene for beautiful backdrops and pleasant discoveries – especially here at Bay Creek. We invite you to see how such a marvelous new destination can make you feel right at home. Take a look at our luxury vacation rentals and our current showcase of exciting new homes, and let’s start planning your visit to Bay Creek today.

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