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Crossing the Chesapeake Bay by/with a bicycle - is there any practical way to do it?

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Crossing the Chesapeake Bay by/with a bicycle - is there any practical way to do it?

Old 06-13-14, 10:11 AM
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suburbanbeat
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Crossing the Chesapeake Bay by/with a bicycle - is there any practical way to do it?

Hi everyone. I'm kind of at my wit's end trying to figure out ways to get across the Chesapeake Bay in a way that is at all practical/cheap. It seems that literally all of the bridges that cross the bay restrict bicycles.

To start our cross country tour, my friends and I were really hoping to start on the Maryland coast, but it appears that would force us to do one of two things:

Ride to the southern tip of Maryland to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and pay a cop to drive us across the bridge. Seriously, that's what most online resources are suggesting that I do. The phone number is (757) 331-2960. I called and spoke to a police officer who sounded frustrated to even be telling me about the service. This is less than ideal because 1) it costs $12, and 2) it puts us too far to the south to link back up with the Transamerica Trail, and 3) the completist in me is bummed about having to drive in a car for any portion of our trip.

The alternative is taking a ferry from Crisfield, MD to Tangier Island (in the middle of the bay) and taking a second ferry to the VA mainland. I suppose this option isn't too bad, but I'm not sure how reliable the service is, and how affordable it is. If anyone has ever done this, advice would be super appreciated!

Thanks in advance!
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Old 06-13-14, 10:48 AM
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You really should consider the Tangier Island option. It is sort of like visiting another country right inside the good old USA.

You live in West Chester? Are you wanting to ride south into Maryland? The eastern shore of Maryland is one of my favorite places in the US. For sure the favorite in eastern US.


If you want to start from a shore, you could go to Atlantic City then ride back toward home. Maybe even stay there overnight.
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Old 06-13-14, 10:49 AM
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Best option is Route 50 Bay Bridge. Ride as far as you can, stop at a gas station, and offer someone with a pickup a small fee to drive you across. I've personally never done this, but heard of many people that have.
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Old 06-13-14, 11:06 AM
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Originally Posted by suburbanbeat View Post
To start our cross country tour, my friends and I were really hoping to start on the Maryland coast, but it appears that would force us to do one of two things
I think those are you options if you really want to start on the Maryland coast. I'll add the possibility of asking around at the last gas stop before the bridge and offering to pay the toll.

On the other hand, why not just start on the Virginia coast?

Originally Posted by suburbanbeat View Post
This is less than ideal because 1) it costs $12, and 2) it puts us too far to the south to link back up with the Transamerica Trail, and 3) the completist in me is bummed about having to drive in a car for any portion of our trip.
They are your concerns and if they are important to you I guess that is that. Still... I hope this isn't too offensive, but they seem kind of trivial to me for the following reasons...
1. $12? Really? In the grand scheme of a 4000+ mile trip $12 is really a pretty trivial amount of money. If starting in MD isn't worth $12, maybe you shouldn't start there.
2. It is pretty easy to connect up with the TA from there. I rode between there going the other direction and it wasn't bad. I used the Elizabeth River Ferry in Norfolk and the Yorktown Scotland Ferry to cross the Potomac. It really isn't a bad ride. You can do that portion in a day.
3. You will likely wind up being required to ride in vehicles to cross some construction areas any way. There were a few places where we were not allowed to ride in the construction area and were required to take a ride in a pick up truck provided by the construction company. There seemed to be no reasonable detour around a couple of these areas. I don't know if that will be the case this year, but I'd be kind of surprised if it wasn't.

Just suggestions though based on my experience with the route. Your reasons may trump my suggestions depending on how important they are to you.
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Old 06-13-14, 11:53 AM
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Oh, and one other thing to consider... There are many things that can go into deciding direction of travel on the route, but one that folks often do not consider is that it is much easier to schedule air travel for the beginning of the trip because you know when you will start, but likely do not know when you will finish. I have found that it is much easier for me, living in the east to start in the west. That way I am not bound to a firm schedule.

As I said, just something to consider.
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Old 06-13-14, 12:03 PM
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There are some lovely back roads on the Eastern Shore - -
And it makes a great place to start a cross-country bike trip - -
Except for getting across Chesapeake Bay.

From SE Penna, you can take a couple of bus routes to Cape May,
Then take the ferry across to Cape Henlopen and the great state park there.
So it makes a convenient start for folks from Penna.

I have been in touch with MD DOT for years about the bridge.
Until about 5 years ago there was an Annapolis bus with bike racks.
But they eliminated the route and there are no current shuttles.
There are a number of commuter buses to DC from Kent Island -
But they do not carry bikes, either.

Sad thing is that the commuter buses and the bridge get public funding.
Yet the MD hasn't done squat for cyclists all this time.

You know what they say? That there's a private shuttle for hire.
It costs $6 round-trip for two people in a car at the toll booth -
But the private shuttle costs $30 per person - or $120 for two, r-t.
I do not think that comes remotely close to equitable.

What I'd like to do is get a group of cyclists arrested -
Then sue the hell out of the Bridge Authority and hold up their public funds.
They haven't done a thing in twenty years.

<<<>>>

That said - - there is another option - -
You can stop at the pull-out just before the bridge and hitch.
(It's not a rest area and not a good stopping point)
Or you can hitch from the gas station at Stevensville,
Or you can see if you can hitch a boat ride from the Bridge Bay Marina.
(I've done that at other locations a few times - if you have the time it usually works.)

But the ferry crossing from Crisfield is the easiest and most dependable.
There are multiple ferries from Crisfield to Smith Island and Tangier Island.

From Smith Island you can connect to Point Lookout during peak season:
Smith Island Cruises | St. Mary's County MD Tourism

From Smith Island you can also cross over to the Northern Neck of Virginia:
(Looks like this one is out of business)

And from Tangier to Reedville, VA:
Visit Tangier Island, Va.

The most regular schedule and connection is via Tangier.
Ferry Service
(Except that you have no time on Tangier Island)

If you have the $$$ - a weekday overnight would be nice.
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Old 06-13-14, 12:36 PM
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Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
From SE Penna, you can take a couple of bus routes to Cape May,
Then take the ferry across to Cape Henlopen and the great state park there.
So it makes a convenient start for folks from Penna.
+1. The Cape May-Lewes Ferry is a nice ride. Rode from philly to Avalon last year for a week. Took a day ride to Rehobeth and back using the ferry. There is a nice bike traill outside of Lewes that takes you to Rehobeth. Met a first cousin of Louis Garneau on the sail over and saw a large pod of dolphins on the sail back to Cape May.

$10/person each way, but, as noted, it's a drop in the bucket for such a trip.

You could use Belleplain State Forest in Woodbine, NJ as an intermediate stop from W. Chester.
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Old 06-13-14, 01:04 PM
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What is the difference in crossing a river on a ferry or riding across a bridge in a motor vehicle as far as the "completist" concept is concerned. They both get you across a river/bay means other than on a bike.

As mentioned above, you will be lucky if you don't have to get ferried through construction areas in a motor vehicle. However my wife and I were once ferried through a construction zone, 4 miles up a hill and deposited at the top by a construction outfit. I did not feel a bit guilty!

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Old 06-13-14, 01:22 PM
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Originally Posted by suburbanbeat View Post
Hi everyone. I'm kind of at my wit's end trying to figure out ways to get across the Chesapeake Bay in a way that is at all practical/cheap. It seems that literally all of the bridges that cross the bay restrict bicycles.

To start our cross country tour, my friends and I were really hoping to start on the Maryland coast, but it appears that would force us to do one of two things:

Ride to the southern tip of Maryland to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and pay a cop to drive us across the bridge. Seriously, that's what most online resources are suggesting that I do. The phone number is (757) 331-2960. I called and spoke to a police officer who sounded frustrated to even be telling me about the service. This is less than ideal because 1) it costs $12, and 2) it puts us too far to the south to link back up with the Transamerica Trail, and 3) the completist in me is bummed about having to drive in a car for any portion of our trip.

The alternative is taking a ferry from Crisfield, MD to Tangier Island (in the middle of the bay) and taking a second ferry to the VA mainland. I suppose this option isn't too bad, but I'm not sure how reliable the service is, and how affordable it is. If anyone has ever done this, advice would be super appreciated!

Thanks in advance!

i had the same issue in 1997when traveling from VB to the eastern shore. i planted myself just past the toll booth and stuck my thumb out. first pickup that came along pulled over and let me toss my bike and gear in the back. he dropped me off on the other side. nothing to it.
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Old 06-13-14, 02:02 PM
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Originally Posted by Doug64 View Post
As mentioned above, you will be lucky if you don't have to get ferried through construction areas in a motor vehicle. However my wife and I were once ferried through a construction zone, 4 miles up a hill and deposited at the top by a construction outfit. I did not feel a bit guilty!
I'm shocked! Horrified!! How can you live with yourself?
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Old 06-13-14, 03:25 PM
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Years ago I rode from Philadelphia to Annapolis. Asked a nice couple in a pickup if they would take the two of us over and they did, no problem. We paid their toll. They were happy and so were we.
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Old 06-13-14, 03:37 PM
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Below is a crazyguy discussion about starting in Virginia Beach. Note that if you take the tunnel route (vs the ferry route) there is a bus if hitchhiking isn't your style.

Bicycle Touring: Forum: Regional: North America: #1183: "Is there a route from Yorktown to the actual ocean?", posted by Isaac Moyer on Wed 19 Sep 2007 16:34 (US/Pacific)

https://www.crazyguyonabike.com/doc/p...id=326265&v=Wl
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Old 06-13-14, 04:09 PM
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Remember, the toll on the Bay Bridge is only eastbound - - so there are no longer toll booths or any waiting area on the westbound lanes on Kent Island. Traffic is generally moving pretty fast.
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Old 06-13-14, 06:21 PM
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Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
Remember, the toll on the Bay Bridge is only eastbound - - so there are no longer toll booths or any waiting area on the westbound lanes on Kent Island. Traffic is generally moving pretty fast.
Right. So offering to pay their toll will probably get you a blank stare.
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Old 06-13-14, 06:24 PM
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i don't know anything about the Tangier Is. ferry, but i would look into it. ferry rides when on tour are very enjoyable. i've taken them across Lake Michigan, the Mississippi, the Anacortes Is. from Dauphin Is, south of Mobile to the Fort Morgan Peninsula. it's an adventure. even the fact that i can remember all these places after 25 or 30 years is testament to the fact that they are memorable experiences. do it.
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Old 06-15-14, 01:41 PM
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Take the ferry to Tangier and stay overnight there if you like. The ferries are pretty reliable and Tangier is one of the neatest places to visit on the Chesapeake Bay. There are several B&Bs that decent and the people are very friendly. I've been there twice on the ferry from Reedville, Va.
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Old 06-15-14, 07:54 PM
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In 2010, on a ride up the Atlantic Coast from Charleston to Lambertville, NJ, I used the ferries to cross the Chesapeake Bay from Reedville to Tangier Island to Crisfield. It cost $40. My journal entry for that day contains several photos of the ferry and Tangier Island.

It wasn't a bad option, though afternoon thunder showers were a bit scary.
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Old 06-16-14, 04:54 AM
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Pardon me while I give another little pitch for going the other direction... We found a lot of advantages to that direction of travel.

Maybe not for the OP, but by starting in the west we found that family and friends were more happy about picking us up in Yorktown than they would have been about dropping us off. The last day they met us on the road and fed us lunch, visited with us in Williamsburg, threw us a picnic at the end in Yorktown, and transported us home. It was a great end to the tour.

Also as I mentioned before It was nice to shop for a cheap fare ahead of time knowing the exact date we would start. Doing that at the end would not work for me since I refuse to ride on a timetable for a long tour.

We found the Appalachians and Ozarks to be the toughest part of the trip and were glad to do them when well road hardened.

We found it motivating starting thousands of miles away from home, and much harder to bail on the trip. We were in interesting (to us) country right away and the familiar country in the east was exciting on the return because we were returning to our home coast after 11 weeks away. There was no temptation to bail in the east because by the time we were there we could see the light at the end of the tunnel.

I valued those advantages enough that I chose to go W-E on the ST as well so I could finish at my daughter's house. And would W-E again if doing the TA unless I wanted an early season start.

Since the OP is from PA, this seems like it would have the same advantaged for them. If going this year, they are getting into the time of year where the weather advantage of riding E-W (avoiding heat/humidity in the east and snow in the Rockies) are starting to turn the other way as well. If starting in the East, I'd have gone a month or more ago. If going next year, then that might still be an option.
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Old 06-16-14, 07:43 AM
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Originally Posted by staehpj1 View Post
Since the OP is from PA, this seems like it would have the same advantaged for them. If going this year, they are getting into the time of year where the weather advantage of riding E-W (avoiding heat/humidity in the east and snow in the Rockies) are starting to turn the other way as well. If starting in the East, I'd have gone a month or more ago. If going next year, then that might still be an option.
Hat tip to staehpj1 - - which I pronounce "Stay Heap" - -

Roughly speaking -

March 15 to June 15 - - Better starting in the East
June 15 to Sept 15 - - Better starting in the West
(With June being an either/or)

PS - Not the mention that the Chesapeake ferry to Tangeir will give you 4 hours on the island W-E.
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Old 06-16-14, 09:38 AM
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Originally Posted by jamawani View Post
Hat tip to staehpj1 - - which I pronounce "Stay Heap" - -
It was never really meant to be pronounced

It was a computer username that was in the 5-2-1 format (5 letters of the past name, first and middle initial, and a number in case there were more than one). I stupidly started using it way back and figured folks are now used to seeing me as staehpj1 so I haven't changed it (can you do that here without creating a new account?). If I were creating or changing the account now I'd be Pete.Staehling or PeteS or Pete.S.
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Old 07-12-14, 02:17 AM
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Crossing the Chesapeake Bay Cheaply

I've recently discoverd a cheap way across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge to Annapolis that might work with some major caveots. It's a commuter bus called the Dillon Bus that, of course, only rolls on weekdays. I have used it to get to an evening ride that starts at the Davidsonville Park and Ride from DC. It cost me $4.25 to get that far.

The weekday thing should be solvable if you're doing a cross country trip. The problem with a commuter bus is the latest the bus leaves Kent Island is something like 7am so you're going to have to do a lot of riding in the dark that first day, but at least you'd get to stop early and probably make it to DC at 1/3rd the cost. The $12 for the Chesapeak Bay Bridge Tunnel isn't too bad, but the $35 or so for special services across the Chesapeake Bay Bridge where you also have to call in advance is just stupid. That's around 9 times the cost!

You just tell the driver where you want to get off, pay exact change, and stash your bike under the bus (there probably won't be anything there since these are commuters - occasionally another bike). I put my racing bike there and haven't had a problem.

Let me know what you decide!

https://dillonbus.com/pdf/922CommuterJan2014.pdf

https://dillonbus.com/pdf/950Commuter.pdf


Originally Posted by suburbanbeat View Post
Hi everyone. I'm kind of at my wit's end trying to figure out ways to get across the Chesapeake Bay in a way that is at all practical/cheap. It seems that literally all of the bridges that cross the bay restrict bicycles.

To start our cross country tour, my friends and I were really hoping to start on the Maryland coast, but it appears that would force us to do one of two things:

Ride to the southern tip of Maryland to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel and pay a cop to drive us across the bridge. Seriously, that's what most online resources are suggesting that I do. The phone number is (757) 331-2960. I called and spoke to a police officer who sounded frustrated to even be telling me about the service. This is less than ideal because 1) it costs $12, and 2) it puts us too far to the south to link back up with the Transamerica Trail, and 3) the completist in me is bummed about having to drive in a car for any portion of our trip.

The alternative is taking a ferry from Crisfield, MD to Tangier Island (in the middle of the bay) and taking a second ferry to the VA mainland. I suppose this option isn't too bad, but I'm not sure how reliable the service is, and how affordable it is. If anyone has ever done this, advice would be super appreciated!

Thanks in advance!
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Old 11-25-14, 04:14 PM
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Hey everyone. I meant to update this after I got back from our cross country tour, but forgot.

We ended up doing the bridge shuttle. Basically, you just ride up to the bridge plaza (it will be on your right) and let a cop know that you want to get across. They'll just put you in a van and take you over. Wasn't too bad, just a little awkward as they seem less than pleased to be doing this for us. Also, the road that leads up to the bridge is pretty fast and dangerous.
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Old 11-27-14, 04:46 PM
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Funny thing is I was told the same thing when I rode across the US40 bridge this summer, yes I rode across as I never saw any signs saying it was illegal. After getting across , about 3/4 mile west of the bridge, a cop pulled me over. Another cop came up and took over for the first cop. He told that you had to have police escort to cross the bridge. He started mentioning a bunch of other roads as well, one being 895. I was...like...(I never said anything outloud, like a dummy) 895 is an interstate, bikes aren't allowed on the interstates around here.

By looking at the maps it appears any bridge inside the I-95(Atlantic side is the inside) corridor is off limits to bikes and you have to use the police escort. He made it sound like I would be allowed to ride the bike on US40, with the escort, but I may have been mistaken by what he said. Can anyone clarify this?
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Old 01-16-16, 05:32 PM
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Originally Posted by suburbanbeat View Post
Hey everyone. I meant to update this after I got back from our cross country tour, but forgot.

We ended up doing the bridge shuttle. Basically, you just ride up to the bridge plaza (it will be on your right) and let a cop know that you want to get across. They'll just put you in a van and take you over. Wasn't too bad, just a little awkward as they seem less than pleased to be doing this for us. Also, the road that leads up to the bridge is pretty fast and dangerous.
I know this was a fairly old thread, but I have been trying to find someone who has used the shuttle over the bridge. I was thinking about riding down to Portsmouth this Spring to visit family and that crossing is the only real obstacle. Did you have to schedule the van in advance? If so, how long in advance and how precisely did you have to schedule a time? Ideally, I would love to roll up whenever I get there and do it as a walk-im since it would be the end of an all day ride. I would be grateful if you could share how it worked out logistically. Thanks!
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Old 01-18-16, 02:05 PM
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Originally Posted by punkinevil View Post
I know this was a fairly old thread, but I have been trying to find someone who has used the shuttle over the bridge. I was thinking about riding down to Portsmouth this Spring to visit family and that crossing is the only real obstacle. Did you have to schedule the van in advance? If so, how long in advance and how precisely did you have to schedule a time? Ideally, I would love to roll up whenever I get there and do it as a walk-im since it would be the end of an all day ride. I would be grateful if you could share how it worked out logistically. Thanks!
I don't believe that the police/transit authorities nowadays still provide the walk-up van service that suburbanbeat describes (actually, I'm surprised that they were, apparently, still doing so in 2014 -- I thought that they had stopped years before then.)

From the State Highway Administration Web site (https://www.roads.maryland.gov/index.aspx?Pageid=596):

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Bridges

The following bridges were not designed to accommodate bicycle or pedestrian traffic.

Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge - US 40 over the Susquehanna River
Harry W. Nice Memorial Bridge - US 301 over the Potomac River
William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial Bridge - US 50/301 over Chesapeake Bay

The Maryland Transportation Authority (MdTA), which oversees the management of the facilities, recognizes that these prohibitions may create difficulties for some cyclists. As a courtesy, the MdTA offers the following services:

William Preston Lane, Jr. Memorial Bridge:

A private, professional service is available, for a fee to assist cyclists over the Chesapeake Bay. It is suggested that you contact the service at least 24 hours in advance of your crossing to verify the location and time of pick-up. For more information, contact the MdTA at 410-974-0341.

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I would give that number a call to get the latest official scoop. The "private, professional" service to which the SHA site refers might be Kent Island Express, Chesapeake Bay Bridge Drive-Over Service, Bay Bridge Drive-Over Help, Parcel Services.
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