So the students are back, and I asked them to share thoughts about bridges. Way back in time, a big part of my growing up (so I’m told) involved getting excited about seeing and driving across bridges. Freshman Mike C. shares the following more recent reminiscences:Growing up in Maryland, my family took lots of vacations on the coast. We would spend a large portion of our summers on the beach in South Bethany, Delaware. It was about a three hour drive from home so it wasn’t too bad. About an hour into the trip on the way there (or two hours into the trip on the way back) we would cross over the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. This bridge holds a place in my childhood memories because it represented the transition between being at home and being on vacation.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge is officially called the William Preston Lane, Jr., Memorial Bridge. Popularly called the Bay Bridge, it crosses the Chesapeake Bay near Annapolis as part of US-50/US-301. The double-span bridges are 4.3 miles long, and stand among the most scenic routes over water. On either side of you is the bay and the ocean and beneath lies the interface between the two. Thousands of people cross the bridge every day and yet the significance of its place seems to disappear amongst the midst of the beauty. Summer weekends tend to have very heavy traffic to and from the Eastern Shore, and to ocean resorts such as Ocean City, Maryland, and Rehoboth Beach, Delaware. Each bridge has a suspension span over the main shipping channel.Trips for my family did not always take place over the summer however. We would sometimes take a few days out of our winter vacations to spend some time at the beach house. Not for the weather, not for the beaches, but for the relaxation and separation from busy life at home. At least, that’s the way I like to think of it. My mother and sisters on the other hand can’t help but to benefit from the shopping offered at the outlets in Rehobeth. I can’t say myself that I didn’t fall victim to the incredible deals they had but for me, the beach trips on the winter were something else. Crossing the bridge was an incredible sight to see in the winter because the water beneath was frozen solid. I recall driving over the bridge and looking down to see small waves frozen in mid air. It certainly was an incredible sight to witness. The beach, lacking the warmth of the sun and the hot sand was something of its own as well. Miles left and right was a desolate shore and it gave me a soothing sensation. A paradox though, enjoying myself on the beach in the winter. No matter what season, winter or summer, the trip always came to an end with the crossing of the Bay Bridge. But not until getting onto the ramp was the beach trip over. The Bay Bridge is an incredible structure and at the time it was made it was the longest steel structure over a body of water. However, crossing the bridge did come with a small fee upon entrance from Maryland. During 2001, nearly 23.9-million vehicles crossed the Bay Bridge. There is a one-way eastbound toll plaza just west of the bridge. Two axle vehicles pay $2.50 ($1.00 with a commuter ticket), and each additional axle is $2.50; a small price to pay for what lay ahead. Now that I’m older, I look at the bridge a bit differently than I did when I was a kid. After studying various types of bridges in my engineering class in high school I take the time while passing over a bridge to study its structural integrity. I like to find things I am familiar with, truss structures I can name, pin connections I’ve studied, all things I never contemplated over when soaking in the scene below. The Bay Bridge isn’t the only bridge I like to study when passing over. On my way up to Tufts I cross over the George Washington Memorial Bridge as well as a few others. I would like to study bridges more because they intrigue me and I was in constant interaction with them as a kid.