EASTON, Md. - When Albert Mills was the first person to drive across the William Preston Lane Jr. Memorial (Chesapeake Bay) Bridge, on July 30, 1952, he said he didn't think anything of it at the time.
But this summer, Mills received three citations for being the first person across — one from Sen. Richard Colburn, R-Dorchester, one from Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley and one from Del. Jeannie Haddaway, R-Talbot.
It all transpired after author and speaker John Reisinger hosted a seminar about the bridge at Easton Club East, where Mills has lived since 2003. When Mills saw a picture that Reisinger had of the first cars to drive across the bridge, Mills told him that he was driving the truck that the pictures were taken from.
Born and raised in Annapolis, Mills, who will be 84 years old in December, was asked by his superior in the National Guard to truck photographers across the bridge when it first opened in 1952.
Nearly 60 years later, he was honoured for being the actual first person to drive across the bridge.
Reisinger said the first discussions about a Bay Bridge were back in the 1920s, but back then, "they didn't think it would generate enough traffic; nobody did."
After the first two-lane span was opened in 1952, Reisinger said the same problem arose with discussions about a second span — that there wouldn't be enough traffic. The second, three-lane span was opened in 1973.
Legislators have been talking about the possibility of a third span for years, according to Haddaway.
"I've been in the House of Delegates for 10 years and they've been talking about it since before my time," she said.
Besides a shift in priorities from transportation funding, Haddaway said a couple of deterrents for Maryland politicians not just going ahead and building a third span are the environmental impact it would have and where it would be located.
Haddaway said there was even a commission started to look at where to put the third span and how best to do it. There was talk about putting the third span in southern Maryland and even putting it in Dorchester County, according to Haddaway, who called it a "tricky process." But she said there was also fear about not being able to meet environmental standards because of all the wetlands in the county.
"The most important point is if we started today, it would probably take 20 years to complete it, and we're looking at potentially the first span being obsolete by then, so the sooner we do something, the better," Haddaway said.
Given the time restraints of the first span's lifetime, Haddaway said a third span would be necessary to support traffic.
Mills, who was a former director of transportation for the U.S. Naval Academy, said he didn't think the third span should be built in the same place as the second and first spans. He said it should either be built north of where the bridge is located and closer to Baltimore, or in southern Maryland, closer to Taylors Island.
Information from: The Star Democrat of Easton, Md., http://www.stardem.com