The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel has been described as one of the seven engineering wonders of the world. The 17.6 mile long span of bridges and tunnels crosses the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, connecting the Hampton Roads area with Virginia’s Eastern Shore. Sometimes people call this the Chesapeake Bay Tunnel, so as not to confuse it with the northern Chesapeake Bay crossing known as the the Chesapeake Bay Bridge.
The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, the official name of which is the Lucius J. Kellam, Jr. Bridge-Tunnel, was completed in 1964. Until the opening of the Bridge-Tunnel, passenger cars and trains crossed the Chesapeake Bay on ferries. Railroad barges still make the trip between Cape Charles and Norfolk.
A second span of bridges was opened in 1999, allowing for four lanes of traffic with separate bridges for northbound and southbound traffic.
The construction of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel was a significant engineering accomplishment. In addition to the low trestle style bridge which makes up most the the complex, tunnels were required to allow large ships to travel the channel to Norfolk, and tall bridges where needed at the north end to allow for passage by taller ships.
The Bridge-Tunnel complex includes 12 miles of low level trestle bridge, two one-mile long tunnels, two high bridges, two miles of causeway, and four man-made islands. The original Bridge-Tunnel took 42 months to complete. The new spans took 46 months to complete.
“When Men Split the Sea“ See an multi-media feature from the Virginia Pilot about construction of the Bay Bridge Tunnel.
For current road and weather conditions and restrictions call the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel at 757-331-2960.
Follow the CBBT on Twitter @FollowTheGulls for updates on restrictions, potential delays, and other factors that may impact your travel.
If you want to stop and spend the night either before or after crossing the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel, there are hotel and bed and breakfast options on both sides. There are more choices on the southern end, and more people and traffic. The Eastern Shore area on the northern end is quieter and more rural. Cape Charles, about 20 miles north of the bridge, is a nice little town with bed & breakfasts, a two boutique hotels, and several restaurants. There are also some recently constructed chain hotels in Exmore, VA are, about 40 miles north of the bridge.
There are a lot more hotel options on the southern side. The Quality Suites at Lake Wright is located on Northampton Blvd and convenient if you’re coming off Route 64. Or, there’s always the Virginia Beach oceanfront.
A newly-renovated restaurant, gift shop, and fishing pier are located on the southernmost island of the bridge-tunnel complex.
This is a good place for travelers to take a break and enjoy the view of the Chesapeake Bay. Container ships and, occasionally, Navy ships can be seen crossing the channel. You can walk around the bend to the end of the island, where view finders are available for watching ships and birds.
Public restrooms are available in the restaurant/gift shop building. The restaurant and gift shop are open from 7:00 a.m to 7:00 p.m. in mid-September to mid-May, and 6:00 a.m. to 10:00 p.m. from mid-May to mid-September.
The restaurant has both sit down service, and faster walk-through service. The restaurant has large windows overlooking the Bay, where visitors may spot ships crossing the channel.
The 625 foot long fishing pier is located adjacent to the restaurant and gift shop. Access to the fishing pier is free. Cleaning stations and a certified weighing station are available.
Many types of birds and waterfowl can be observed from the Bay Bridge-Tunnel. The causal observer will note seagulls perched on top of many of the lights that line the bridges, and pelicans are commons sights around the bridge-tunnel. Good spots to watch birds are on seagull island, where the fishing pier, gift shop and restaurant are located, and at the observation pull-off located at the northern end of the bridge, just beyond the toll booth. More serious birders and birding groups can make arrangements for access to the islands. This must be arranged in advance and entails very specific security requirements. Click here for more information on the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel Birding Program.
We’ve had several requests for information from people who are afraid to drive across the bridge-tunnel. According to the official CBBT web site, a driver’s assistance program is offered for customers with fear of heights, bridges, tunnels, etc. Under this program, the Bridge-Tunnel Police Department arranges for a District employee to drive a customer’s personal vehicle across the Bridge-Tunnel. There is no additional cost for this service. Travelers are asked to make arrangements for assistance in advance. Drive-overs scheduled for 6:30 a.m., 2:30 p.m., and 10:30 p.m.. People using this service are advised that there may be delays, the length of which will vary with the time of day, day of week, and season. Contact the Bridge-Tunnel Police Department at 757-331-2960 for additional information and to arrange for an escort.
Contact: For Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel weather, road conditions, and weather related travel restrictions, call 757-331-2960
Toll: The toll for the Chesapeake Bay Bridge Tunnel vary by time of travel. The Peak rate times are Friday through Sunday, May 15 – September 15. Any other travel times are Off-Peak.
The toll for cars, pickup trucks, motorcycles, panel trucks, and minibuses with 15 or less seating capacity is $13 during Off-Peak travel times and $15 during Peak travel times.
The discounted rate for a return trip made within 24 hours is $5.00 during Off- Peak times and $3.00 during Peak times, but you’ll need to have an E-Z Pass to get the return trip discount.
Includes information tolls, fishing pier, history, etc.
Complete list of tolls from the CBBT.