1951: The Late-Night Opening of the Delaware Memorial Bridge

August 16, 1951

At a minute past midnight, the Delaware Memorial Bridge linking Delaware with New Jersey was officially opened to traffic. Motorists had been lined up for up to 20 hours beforehand to travel over the newly built 2,150-foot-long bridge across the Delaware River, and the first person to make that drive (approaching the structure from the Delaware side) was Omero C. Catan of Woodside, New York. During the next 24 hours, approximately 20,000 vehicles likewise crossed the bridge. 

The need for such a land-to-land connection between Delaware and New Jersey had grown increasingly urgent over the previous couple of decades due to both the dramatic increase in vehicles traveling through the region and the inability of the local ferry service to adequately handle that traffic. In 1945, Delaware and New Jersey authorized their respective highway departments to help build the bridge; the following year, the U.S. Congress formally approved that project. Construction began in 1949 and, at the time of its completion, the bridge had the sixth longest main suspension span in the world. 

On the day before the bridge’s official opening, that structure was formally dedicated to those in the military from Delaware and New Jersey who lost their lives in World War II. Pedestrian travel and scheduled bus tours only were allowed on the bridge as part of the dedication. 

The four-lane Delaware Memorial Bridge quickly became popular. By 1960, more than 15 million vehicles were crossing the structure each year. Construction on a second span began in 1964. That span, which opened in 1968, was dedicated to military personnel from Delaware and New Jersey who were killed in the wars in Korea and Vietnam. The bridge has been maintained by the Delaware River and Bay Authority since 1962 and now carries both Interstate 295 and U.S. Route 40 between Delaware and New Jersey.

Photo Credit: Public Domain

For more information on the Delaware Memorial Bridge, please check out Delaware Memorial Bridge – Wikipedia

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