BALTIMORE — One aspect of my recent cruise that I was looking forward to was just a few miles downstream from port — sailing under two of Maryland’s biggest bridges. The first (and last) along our voyages was Baltimore’s Francis Scott Key Bridge, not to be confused with Washington, D.C.’s Francis Scott Key Bridge. Baltimore’s Key Bridge is said to be located near where Key witnessed the bombardment of Fort McHenry that inspired him to write “The Star Spangled Banner.”
As for the bridge itself, Steve Anderson describes it on dcroads.net:
Engineers finally decided upon a continuous steel truss design that had a 1,200-foot-long main span (between piers) – which at the time was to be longest continuous-truss span in the United States – and two 722-foot-long side spans. Borrowing from the design of many steel arch spans, the main truss span is suspended by steel cables. On both sides of the three-span truss bridge were three 300-foot-long girder spans to the west and six girder spans of identical length to the east; these spans were hoisted onto the bridge in their entirety to reduce construction costs.
Aesthetically, Key Bridge is a mixed-bag. The point of the “arch” lacks the typical symmetry of an arch bridge, it does make it distinctive. It lacks the grandeur of the Golden Gate or even Verrazano-Narrows Bridges of San Francisco and New York, respectively. I suppose someone could suggest that the Key Bridge reflects the humility of the city’s people, but that’s probably balderdash. Balmerdash? Baldeemordash?
H. L. Mencken could not be reached for comment.
Nonetheless, I was excited to sail under Key Bridge and photograph it. Sailing out, it rained, but only for the 10 minutes or so the ship was closest to the bridge. Returning to port early on a Sunday morning, the sky was as cloudy as the gray painted steel of the crossing. I am fairly happy with the photos I snapped.
The bridge opened “March 23, 1977 at a cost of $60 million, about 15 months behind schedule and $10 million over budget” completing the Baltimore Beltway. A bit of trivia — Key Bridge is signed as Interstate 695, but in reality is not a true interstate highway. For many years it was properly signed as MD 695.