Painting the Chesapeake Bay Bridge horizontal rule]

In 1952, it cost $45 million to build the eastbound span of the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. Now it's time to paint it. Painting the bridge is a very expensive job. Seventy-one million dollars have been budgeted to paint just the eastbound span. The westbound span will be done in a few years.

Several factors contribute to making this project so expensive:

  1. The work has to be done when traffic is lightest . This means the painters will have to work at night. They will get paid a bonus because they will not be working during regular working hours.
  2. We want clean air and clean water . That's very expensive because before bridge can be painted, the old coats of paint must be removed. The old coats can't be painted over because the base of the paint has deteriorated so that painting over the top of it would not last any time at all. They have to take the bridge down to cold steel.
  3. The last coat before steel is lead-based, and lead is not good for living things . At least 400 tons of lead-tinged paint will be removed in just the first phase of the five-year project. Why so many tons?
    • Because the first phase covers 1.8 million square feet of surface on towers and cables on the bridge.
    • Once the old paint is blasted off the surface by steel particles shot by high-pressure air, the lead paint can't be allowed to drift down to the Chesapeake because it could affect the marine life.
    • It can't be allowed to float through the air, because the workers would inhale it and it could drift ashore.
    • Because of this, a structure will be built wherever paint is being removed, so none can escape, and a fan with a filter will suck up particles.
The new paint is expected to last 20 years.

Thanks to the Maryland Transportation Authority for the photo used on this page.

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© Copyright, April 7, 1998, Office of the Secretary of State.
Last Modified October 04, 2002 .