|Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge|
Hatem Bridge in the spring of 2011
|Carries||Four lanes of US 40|
|Locale||Havre de Grace, Maryland and Perryville, Maryland|
|Maintained by||Maryland Transportation Authority|
|Design||Steel Truss - Thru|
|Total length||2,361.9 metres (7,749 ft)|
|Width||14.6 metres (48 ft)|
|Vertical clearance||4.8 metres (16 ft)|
|Clearance below||26.5 metres (87 ft)|
|Construction begin||February 1939|
|Construction end||August 1940|
|Construction cost||$4.5 million|
|Opened||August 28, 1940|
|Toll||$5.00 (eastbound) (E-ZPass)|
|Daily traffic||21284 (in 1990)|
The Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge is a bridge carrying the traffic across the Susquehanna River on U.S. Route 40 between Havre de Grace and Perryville via Garrett Island in northeast Maryland. It is the oldest of the eight toll facilities operated and maintained by the Maryland Transportation Authority and is named for Thomas J. Hatem, a distinguished citizen of Harford County, who devoted his life to public and civic service.
The bridge, however, does not represent the first crossing of the Susquehanna River between the Harford County community of Havre de Grace and the Cecil County town of Perryville. A succession of ferries made the trip for more than 200 years, a railroad bridge was constructed during the last half of the 19th century, and a vehicle bridge opened in 1910. The 1910 structure, acquired by a group of private citizens who operated it as a toll facility between 1910 and 1923, was converted from a railroad bridge constructed in 1873.
The State Roads Commission (SRC), predecessor of the Authority, bought the bridge in 1923 and continued to operate it as a toll facility. The structure was extremely narrow—with a roadway only 13 feet (4.0 m) wide. Heavy trucks inched past each other, and there were many side-swiping accidents on the bridge. Traffic usually moved at a snail’s pace. To alleviate the problem, the SRC dualized the bridge in 1926 by building a second deck over the old bridge, converting each level into a crossing for one-way traffic. This project was considered one of the most ingenious bridge-engineering feats of the time. Then, new problems surfaced. The new deck had a vertical clearance of 12.5 feet (3.8 m)—barely sufficient to accommodate the growing number of commercial vehicles traveling the bridge in the 1930s. Frequently, trucks stacked too high with freight became wedged between the deck and the overhead structure and could proceed only after their tires were deflated to allow adequate clearance. The need for a newer, more modern structure became apparent in the mid-1930s.
At the same time, the Maryland General Assembly authorized the State Roads Commission to formulate a comprehensive plan for the construction of bridges and tunnels across major bodies of water in Maryland. These projects would be financed and operated through toll funding. The plan developed by the SRC was ratified by the United States Congress in 1938 under its regulatory powers over navigable waterways. The plan became known as Maryland’s Primary Bridge Program and provided, among other projects, for the construction of a bridge across the Susquehanna River parallel to the overtaxed double-decker structure. Construction of this new span, which was designed by the J. E. Greiner Co., began in February 1939 and was completed at a cost of $4.5 million.
The bridge opened to traffic on August 28, 1940, and the obsolete double-decker bridge was later demolished (there was an effort to keep it for local traffic, but then it was thought that its steel would be needed for the war effort). The new structure was known as the Susquehanna River Bridge. All of the first toll collectors at the bridge were men; however, with the advent of World War II, men flocked to military service and women took over traditionally male-dominated jobs. Exact-change lanes were a novelty in toll collection when they were installed at the bridge in 1958. Their contribution to efficient toll collection was overshadowed in 1976 with the introduction of AVI (Automatic Vehicle Identification) decals. AVI works on the same principle as automated checkouts at retail stores, and the decal itself looks like a large universal-product code symbol commonly found on many items.
In May 1986, the bridge was given its current name. In 1991, a one-way toll collection system was introduced, and the $5.00 toll is now collected in the eastbound direction only. Motorists may also purchase a barcode decal for $10 that is valid for unlimited crossings for 12 calendar months.
As prohibiting pedestrians or bicycles may create difficulties, the Maryland Transportation Authority may transport bicycles for a fee as a courtesy if manpower and time are available. As this operating policy is not official, non-motorists should call the bridge desk at least 24 hours in advance.
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