Pictured: the construction of the North Channel Bridge, the highest point of the facility.


Yesterday marked 55 years in existence for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

On April 15, 1964, 42 months after construction began, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel opened to traffic and the ferry service discontinued. The Ferry Commission and transportation district it oversees, created in 1954, were later renamed for the revised mission of building and operating the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel.

In mid-1960, the Chesapeake Bay Ferry Commission sold $200 million in revenue bonds to private investors, and the proceeds were used to finance the construction of the CBBT. Funds collected by future tolls were pledged to pay the principal and interest on the bonds. No local, state, or federal tax funds were used in the construction.

The tunnels of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel under construction

Construction of the tunnels of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel in the early 1960s

Construction contracts were awarded to a consortium of Tidewater Construction Corporation and Merritt Chapman & Scott Corporation. The steel superstructure for the high-level bridges near the north end of the crossing were fabricated by the American Bridge Division of the U.S. Steel Corporation. Construction of the bridge–tunnel began in October 1960 after a six-month process of assembling necessary equipment from worldwide sources. Legend has long held when the bridge reached the Virginia Beach side, it was within an inch of its intended mark.

For over 50 years, the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel has captured worldwide attention as a modern engineering wonder and an important East Coast travel convenience. Crossing over and under open waters where the Chesapeake Bay meets the Atlantic Ocean, the Bridge-Tunnel provides a direct link between Southeastern Virginia and the Delmarva Peninsula, and cuts 95 miles from the journey between Virginia Beach and points north of Wilmington, Delaware.

Following its opening on April 15, 1964, the Bridge-Tunnel was selected “One of the Seven Engineering Wonders of the Modern World” in a worldwide competition that included more than one hundred major projects. In addition, in 1965, it was distinguished as “The Outstanding Civil Engineering Achievement” by the American Society of Civil Engineers.

To date, more than 130 million commercial and passenger vehicles have crossed the Bridge-Tunnel. In order to meet future traffic demands and provide for a safer crossing, construction of a parallel crossing project began in summer 1995, and opened to four-lane traffic on April 19, 1999. No less challenging than construction of the original span, this project once again drew focus to a remarkable achievement in engineering and construction.

The CBBT has begun construction of the Parallel Thimble Shoals Tunnel Project, which will create a second two lane tunnel at the southern most islands. The $755 million project is expected to be completed in October of 2022.


Sources:  Wikipedia and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel website.