Bay Bridge Walk set for May 6

Decades-old event has occasionally been canceled in recent years for security, traffic concerns

February 24, 2007|By Laura Smitherman | Laura Smitherman,sun reporter

Gov. Martin O'Malley announced yesterday that the state would continue to host the Bay Bridge Walk, a Maryland tradition that has occasionally been scuttled in recent years by safety and traffic concerns.

The walk, organized by the Maryland Transportation Authority, takes people over the 4.3-mile span of the Bay Bridge, which is normally closed to pedestrian traffic. Last year, about 20,000 people made the stroll from the Eastern to the Western Shore on a day in May that was hosted by former Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. This year, the event is scheduled for Sunday, May 6.

"This family-friendly walk is an opportunity for young and old alike to experience the bridge and the Chesapeake Bay from a vantage point that is not usually available," O'Malley said. He called the walk "a unique way to enjoy our State's most valuable natural resource."

The Bay Bridge Walk, which started in 1975, has had a spotty history in recent years. It had been an annual event through 2001, with the exception of a weather-related cancellation in 1980. Weather again caused the event to be canceled in 2002.

Then in 2003, the Maryland Transportation Authority decided to call off the walk, saying it would have diverted resources from homeland security efforts at a time when officers were facing increased demands for overtime to respond to the heightened threat of terrorism in the U.S. And in 2005, it was canceled when construction on the westbound span made it too difficult to divert traffic.

The bridge is one of the world's longest over-water structures. The original span opened in 1952; the parallel span opened two decades later. The Bay Bridge Walk began a few years after that when a Boy Scout leader in Towson asked then-Gov. Marvin Mandel if his troop could walk across the bridge while it was closed for maintenance. Said John D. Porcari, who was picked by O'Malley to be state transportation secretary: "The first Sunday in May means Bay Bridge Walk."

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