Bridge Under Troubled Drivers


Pictured above is the Chesapeake Bay Bridge — or, part of it, at least. The bridge crosses the Chesapeake Bay in Maryland (hence the name) and is 4.3 miles (nearly 7 km) from end to end; when you’re in the middle of your trip, it’s difficult to see land. The bridge is narrow, too — the westbound lane is only 38 feet (11.6 meters) wide, but that’s downright luxurious compared to the 28-foot (8.5 m) wide eastbound lane. There are no shoulders to pull over onto in case of car trouble, making accidents particularly frightening. At its highest point, drivers are more than 180 feet (55 m) above the water’s surface. In bad weather, visibility can fall to near-zero, as seen here. To the surprise of no one, Travel and Leisure magazine considers it to be one of the world’s scariest bridges.

For some, the mere thought of having to drive over the Bay Bridge is terrifying. For others, though, it’s an opportunity to cash in on that terror.

Steven Eskew is that somebody. He’s the owner of a company called “Kent Island Express” which, per the company’s website, offers a “Chesapeake Bay Bridge Drive-Over Service.” If you call them an hour ahead of time — as early as 7 AM and as late as 8 PM, seven days a week — one of Eskew’s drivers will meet you at the bridge. From there, the driver will get into your car and drive you — and your car — to the other side. For the squeamish motorist, it’s the exact same commute, minus the bridge-induced panic attacks. (A Kent Island Express van picks the driver up on the other side, unless another customer is waiting for the same service in the reverse direction.)

The service, which used to run $25 a trip (per the Washington Post) and went up to $30 recently, typically only takes about ten minutes — although traffic can make the trip take an hour. (There’s no extra charge for the delay.) As USA Today notes, it’s not the only example out there — local authorities in New York, Michigan, and Delaware/New Jersey offer similar services over the Tappan Zee, Mackinac, and Delaware Memorial Bridges, respectively. But Kent Island Express is the only for-profit drive-over service in the United States.

In general, it works — but not always. Eskew told NPR that while most of Kent Island’s customers find that their anxiety is alleviated by having a temporary driver, it’s not a fix for everyone — some customers are still terror-stricken: “We do have a couple people that will get in the back of their own car – sit on the floor. We do have a couple people who will throw a towel or jacket over their head.” However, no one has ever ridden in the trunk, despite some rider requests — that’s not allowed.

Bonus fact: In 2005, in order to fund water treatment plants for the Chesapeake Bay, Maryland instituted a $30 fee (since doubled) collected from each user of an “onsite disposal system.” What’s an “onsite disposal system”? Per the Washington Post, that’s legislator-speak for a “homeowners using septic systems.” The fee, colloquially known as the Maryland “flush tax,” is added to the property tax bills of Maryland residents whose toilets aren’t connected to the rest of the municipal system.

From the Archives: Bridge Over Former Water: What happens to a bridge when the water goes away? In this case, nothing.

Related: This Roman Arch Bridge Kit. With shipping, it’s about $40. But — it’s really worth it. Kids love it, it’s super-strong (as in, a kid can stand on it assuming you build it right) and it’s educational and elegant in its simplicity. It’s like magic, but not, because it’s science.