Friday, November 08, 2013

Chincoteague Causeway

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A few photos of the long, winding Chincoteague Causeway , which connects Chincoteague Island with the mainland. My hotel was on the island, and the NASA center is on the mainland, and I lost track of how many times I drove back and forth along this route. It's kind of a fun drive, actually; there are a few elevated bridge portions, but much of the route is a very low causeway that feels more or less like you're driving along right at water level, as if you're zipping across the marsh in a hovercraft or something. It probably didn't hurt that my rental car was a fast little Fiat 500, and going anywhere with it made for a fun drive.

As the story goes, when the road to Chincoteague Island opened in 1922, the grand opening drew a large number of motorists to the island, who were then stranded there when bad weather damaged the road. The road was eventually repaired and reopened, but it still wasn't up to the job and was replaced with an improved bridge in 1940. Time and traffic and salt water eventually took their toll on their replacement, and it in turn was replaced in 2009.

The original bridge first crossed the much smaller (and aptly named) Marsh Island, which has just a handful of houses. From there a truss swing bridge connected to the main island. That bridge was an iconic image of the island for many years (although, let's be honest, it wasn't exactly the St. Johns Bridge or the Golden Gate or anything). The replacement project went ahead and ripped it out anyway, and lots of junky beach tourist knicknacks suddenly became valuable collector's items.

The new causeway now detours around Marsh Island (with a short spur bridge connecting it to the causeway) and it avoids the island's downtown, instead connecting to the road that continues out to the beaches of Assateague Island, further east. I never saw firsthand what traffic was like with the old bridge, but just looking at a map and comparing the two routes it stands to reason (I think) that the new bridge is a big improvement. Even if it never shows up on t-shirts and collector spoons and shot glasses like its predecessor.

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