THE SEA BREEZE-WOODLAND BEACH CROSSING: Soon after the Delaware River and Bay Authority (DRBA) was formed in 1963, engineers commissioned by the New Jersey State Highway Department presented their study for a proposed seven-mile-long bridge between Woodland Beach (Sussex County), Delaware and Sea Breeze (Cumberland County), New Jersey. The report concluded that a new crossing, whose costs ranged from $64 million for a two-lane bridge to $114 million for a four-lane bridge, was not economically feasible at the time.

These estimates did not include the costs of building new approach roads, which had to be built before a bridge could be built. The proposed bridge likely would have required an upgrade of DE 6 on the Delaware side of the bridge, and a highway on new right-of-way on the New Jersey side (perhaps a newly designated NJ 6). Upon the release of the engineers' findings, the DRBA focused on a new twin span for the Delaware Memorial Bridge (I-295 and US 40), which was approved in late 1963 and completed four years later. The agency also commissioned the operation of a ferry between Cape May, New Jersey and Lewes, Delaware, and even purchased four ferries displaced by the opening of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel (US 13) in 1964.

The Woodland Beach-Sea Breeze route was to be roughly parallel to the car float route, which connected the New Jersey Southern Railroad in Bay Side with the Smyrna and Delaware Bay Railroad in Woodland Beach. The car float service across Delaware Bay operated during the early 1890's, but railroad service between Woodland Beach and Smyrna ended in 1895, effectively ending the service. Railroad service continued from Bay Side to points north until the mid-1920's.

THE CAPE MAY-LEWES CROSSING: During 1969 and 1970, the DRBA commissioned a second study for a Delaware Bay crossing. In addition to the Sea Breeze-Woodland Beach crossing, it also studied more a southerly site between Cape May and Lewes, where it operated its ferry service. The Cape May side of the crossing would have emptied onto the Garden State Parkway and US 9, but a new highway parallel to the existing US 9 would have been required on the Lewes side.

The engineering design firm Parsons, Brinckerhoff, Quade and Douglas estimated that a 17-to-19 mile-long bridge between Cape May and Lewes would cost between $200 million and $250 million. It also estimated that $50 million to $100 million could be saved by building a two-lane bridge initially and deferring construction of a parallel span until a future date. None of the proposals studied featured a bridge-tunnel combination. The DRBA concluded that such a bridge could not be built until at least 1985 because of the lack of accessibility and travel demand.

The DRBA concluded that such a bridge could not be built until at least 1985 because of the lack of accessibility and travel demand. A subsequent DRBA study in 1980 found that a new Delaware Bay bridge was not needed until at least 2000.

In the more than 25 years since the last formal study, a number of local officials have called on the DRBA to initiate new studies, given the explosive travel demands stimulated by year-round and summer population growth in both states. The most recent call for new studies came in 2003 when Delaware State Senator George H. Bunting and New Jersey State Assemblyman Jeff Van Drew supported calls for new feasibility studies for a Cape May-Lewes crossing.

Even DRBA Chairman Richard Cordrey acknowledged at the time that while traffic projections and tight finances did not warrant construction of the crossing, whose cost now is estimated at $1 billion, he said that "if you wait until you need it, it's too late."

WHAT ROUTE WOULD A NEW BRIDGE TAKE? Scott Kozel, webmaster of the "Roads to the Future" and "Pennways" web site, posted the following route for a Cape May-Lewes Bridge in a 1997 post in the misc.transport.road newsgroup:

I got some charts of Delaware Bay years ago, and mapped out the likely route that a bridge would take. I placed the east abutment about a mile north of West Cape May. That seemed to be one of the less inhabited areas around Cape May. Bridges normally cross a shipping channel at a right angle, so my design went about seven miles out to the channel (it is called Brandywine Range), crossed on a suspension bridge with about 180 feet of vertical clearance, then curved about 30 degrees south, and made landfall at Lewes, just west of Cape Henlopen.

The Delaware Bay Bridge would be about 16 miles long. Four lanes would be the appropriate width. The connecting roadway would be a four-lane expressway, and would link the bridge to the Garden State Parkway, and to US 13 in southern Delaware, via a new road parallel to US 9.

My examination of the U.S. official nautical charts of the area, indicated that the Delaware Bay Bridge overall length and underwater topography along the route would be generally similar to that of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel, but the Delaware Bay Bridge would only cross one shipping channel (the CBBT crosses two), and there would be no U.S. Navy requirement for a tunnel under the main shipping channel. So the Delaware Bay Bridge would have mostly low-level trestles, with a high-level suspension span or cable-stayed span over the main shipping channel.  

SOURCES: "New Bridge Over Delaware Studied," The New York Times (4/19/1969); "Delaware Bay: Is a Bridge Feasible?" by Mark Forrest, The New York Times (6/19/1977); Crossing the Delaware: The Story of the Delaware Memorial Bridge by William J. Miller, Jr., Delapeake Publishing (1983); "Study of Delaware Bay Bridge-Tunnel Sought" by Chip Guy, The Wilmington News-Journal (3/16/2003); Chris Hoess; Scott Kozel.

  • DRBA shield from Delaware River and Bay Authority web site.
  • DE6-NJ 6 and US 9 shields by Ralph Herman.


Back to The Crossings of Metro Philadelphia home page.

Site contents © by Eastern Roads. This is not an official site run by a government agency. Recommendations provided on this site are strictly those of the author and contributors, not of any government or corporate entity.