The Delaware Memorial Bridge's Twin Span Just Turned 50
The structure first opened to much fanfare on Sept. 12, 1968.
Robert and Kim Cummings of Medford, New Jersey, were recognized as the first customer of the next 50 years. They received $250 on their E-ZPass account. Robert, a Vietnam veteran, and his wife, Kim, were heading to Baltimore, Maryland, to visit with their daughter, who is expecting her first child. From left: Toll collector Cindy Bunitsky; DRBA deputy executive director Stephen Williams; DRBA executive director Tom Cook; Kim Cummings and her husband, Robert Cummings; DRBA commissioner Michael Ratchford; DRBA chairman Jim Hogan.//Courtesy of DRBA
Gov. John Carney and New Jersey Rep. Frank LoBiondo joined Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA) officials on Wednesday, Sept. 12, to commemorate 50 years of the Delaware Memorial Bridge's Twin Span. The Delaware-bound portion of the bridge—constructed at a cost of $70 million—first opened to traffic and much fanfare on Sept. 12, 1968. Today it serves as a vital transportation link in the eastern corridor of the U.S., handling more than 36 million vehicles annually.
"The Delaware Memorial Bridge Twin Span is more than a concrete and steel structure soaring over the Delaware River," said James N. Hogan, DRBA chairman. "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," noted executive director Tom Cook. "As we remember and celebrate 50 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 [original] 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 Wednesday's ceremony, the DRBA commission recognized and honored the bi-state agency's first executive director, William J. Miller, Jr. With extensive experience in bridges and highways, Miller was a natural choice for first executive director position of the newly formed Delaware River and Bay Authority in 1963. The Twin Span was planned, financed and constructed under his direction and leadership, and has since become world-renowned for its innovative design and construction. During the DRBA's formative years, Miller also championed the launch of the Cape May-Lewes Ferry as a key transportation link between Delaware and New Jersey. Miller retired on Dec. 31, 1991.
"The Delaware Memorial Bridge provides Delawareans and visitors easy access to major highways, tax-free shopping, businesses in downtown Wilmington and attractions along [the] Wilmington Riverfront," said Gov. Carney. "We are proud of its significance in making Delaware more accessible for the past 50 years, and we look forward to continuing to work together with New Jersey and the Delaware River and Bay Authority."
"The critical role the Delaware Memorial Bridge plays in the daily lives of South Jersey residents and New Jersey's economy cannot be overstated," said Rep. LoBiondo. "[...] [T]here is no calculating the countless benefits the Mid-Atlantic region has enjoyed. I applaud the foresight of New Jersey and Delaware five decades ago, and [their] continued partnership for the next 50 years."
When the Twin Span opened in 1968, the Delaware Memorial Bridge was the longest twin-suspension bridge in the world. The National Society of Professional Engineers deemed it one of the 10 outstanding engineering achievements of 1968.
Today the bridge handles more vehicles in one hour than it did in one whole day in 1951, when the first span of the bridge opened. The bridge recorded its largest single day of traffic volume on Nov. 29, 2009, when 79,488 vehicles passed (one way) through the toll plaza. The Twin Span registered its one-billionth toll transaction on Dec. 12, 2012, at 11:59 a.m., as Jeff Wright of Wildwood, New Jersey, passed through toll lane No. 2.