River & Bay Authority marks 50th anniversary of the second span of Memorial Bridge

DRBA employees participate in a wreath ceremony at center span of the second span to remember and honor construction workers who died building the span and employees who passed away in the line of duty since 1968. Pictured (left –right) are Darin Crist of the maintenance department; Monica Creamer representing administration; Sgt. Jody Hauck of the police department ; Michael Lindsay of the toll department; and Jay Jones who has served the agency for 43 years.  

Officials gathered on Wednesday to commemorate 50 years of the Twin Span.

The second span, which is the Delaware-bound bridge and constructed at a cost of $70 million, opened to traffic in 1968.

Today, the Delaware Memorial Bridge Twin Span handles more than 36 million vehicles that cross it annually.

“The Delaware Memorial Bridge Twin Span is more than a concrete and steel structure soaring over the Delaware River,” said James N. Hogan, chairman of the DRBA. “This engineering marvel is an eternal, living memorial to those valiant men and women from the States of New Jersey and Delaware who gave their lives for our freedoms. We’re proud of the history, legacy and role that these bridges have had on our region and its economic vitality.”

“Whether transporting goods and services, traveling for a family vacation or commuting to work, millions of people rely on these bridges daily to get to their destination,” said Executive Director Tom Cook. “As we remember and celebrate fifty years of making possible these daily connections, it is my hope that we also think about Vice President Hubert Humphrey’s message that day at the dedication, ‘We must build new bridges – not just bridges of concrete and steel, but of tolerance, understanding and cooperation.’ Those words are as true today as they were in 1968.”

During today’s ceremony, the DRBA Commission recognized and honored the bi-state agency’s first Executive Director, William J. Miller, Jr. Miller was the first Executive Director of the newly formed Delaware River and Bay Authority in 1963. Under his direction and leadership, the second span of the Delaware Memorial Bridge was planned, financed, and constructed.

Miller also championed the launch of the Cape May Lewes Ferry as a key transportation link between the States of Delaware and New Jersey. Miller retired on December 31, 1991.

“The Delaware Memorial Bridge provides Delawareans and visitors easy access to major highways, tax-free shopping, businesses in Downtown Wilmingtonand attractions along Wilmington Riverfront,” saidGov. John Carney. “We are proud of its significance in making Delaware more accessible for the past fifty years, and we look forward to continuing to work together with New Jersey and the Delaware River and Bay Authority.”

When the second span opened, the Delaware Memorial Bridge was the longest twin suspension bridge in the world and was cited as one of the 10 outstanding engineering achievements of 1968 by the National Society of Professional Engineers.

A few days following the dedication ceremony, the original span of the Delaware Memorial Bridge was closed for a major overhaul. The bridge’s original suspender ropes were replaced, the median barrier removed and a new bridge deck constructed to allow for four unseparated northbound traffic lanes. On December 29, 1969, the Delaware Memorial Bridge’s eight lanes were finally completed and opened.

Today, the Delaware Memorial Bridge handles more vehicles in an hour than it did during an entire day in 1951 when the first bridge opened.

In 2009, the bridge, 3,650 feet long with a center span of 2,150 feet, recorded its largest single day of traffic volume on November 29 when 79,488 vehicles (one-way) passed through the toll plaza.

The Delaware River and Bay Authorityis a bi-state governmental agency created by Compact in 1962, owns and operates the Delaware Memorial Bridge, the Cape May- Lewes Ferry, and the Forts Ferry Crossing. The DRBA also manages corporate and aviation properties through its economic development powers – two airports in New Jersey (Millville Airport and Cape May Airport) and three in Delaware (New Castle Airport, Civil Air Terminal and Delaware Airpark). All DRBA operating revenues are generated through the bridge, ferry and airport facilities. For more information, visit www.drba.net.

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