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America’s scariest bridges for truckers: Part 2

Bridges in Michigan, West Virginia, Maryland and Texas make the list based on driver comments

Mackinac Bridge on a wintry Michigan day. (Photo: Flickr/Rachel Kramer)

Crossing bridges can be nerve-racking for drivers, especially professional truckers. Steep ascents and dizzying heights make some bridges that much more frightening during intense weather. These are just a few of the scariest in the country.

Mackinac Bridge

The Mackinac Bridge, which connects lower Michigan to the state’s Upper Peninsula, can definitely rattle the nerves of drivers during intense weather. Based on a social media comment made to FreightWaves by people in transportation, the bridge is “very steep and very high — another scary one.” The height of the roadway, part of Interstate 75, is approximately 200 feet above the water at mid-span.

Nicknamed “Mighty Mac,” the Mackinac Bridge opened to traffic on Nov. 1, 1957. Its total length spans 26,372 feet (5 miles) across the Straits of Mackinac, and the length of the suspension bridge (including anchorages) is 8,614 feet. This makes it the longest suspension bridge in the Western Hemisphere. According to the Mackinac Bridge Authority, it’s currently the fifth-longest suspension bridge in the world.

“The Mac — definitely have to dig your underwear out of your crack on a windy day. With any luck, it will still be clean,” another person said.

New River Gorge Bridge

The New River Gorge Bridge is a steel arch bridge spanning 3,030 feet over the New River Gorge near Fayetteville, West Virginia. With an arch 1,700 feet long, the New River Gorge Bridge was the world’s longest single-span arch bridge for 26 years; it’s now the fourth longest. Part of U.S. Highway 19, an average of 16,200 motor vehicles cross the bridge each day.

New River Gorge Bridge in West Virginia. (Photo: Flickr/WVTROUT)

Drivers are rewarded with beautiful views of the Appalachians, but people commented to FreightWaves that the New River Gorge Bridge is “scary,” mainly “because of the drop below.” The roadway of the New River Gorge Bridge is 876 feet above the New River, making it the third highest in the United States.

Millard E. Tydings Memorial Bridge

Another challenging bridge for truckers is the Millard E. Tydings Bridge. It carries Interstate 95 over the Susquehanna River between Cecil and Harford counties in Maryland. Strong winds have effortlessly flipped tractor-trailers on the bridge. Warning signs regarding crosswinds are posted at the entrances to the bridge.

“I always move to the middle lane and pucker up below the belt!” a driver told the Truckers Report in January 2018. “I’ve been behind another truck whose right-side axles were lifted off the ground and I don’t even know if he realized it or not. It’s windy up there even when it’s not windy.”

The bridge is named for Millard Tydings (1890-1961), a longtime political figure in Maryland who served as a U.S. senator from 1927 to 1951. It was built from January 1962 until November 1963 between bluffs high above the river valley. It was dedicated, along with the highway it carries, by President John F. Kennedy on Nov. 14, eight days before he was assassinated in Dallas. The next year, the highway was renamed the John F. Kennedy Memorial Highway.

Rainbow Bridge

“Rainbow” is a not-so-scary name for quite a scary-looking bridge. Drivers who suffer from fear of heights (acrophobia) may end up with a fear of bridges (gephyrophobia) after traversing the Rainbow Bridge, especially in windy weather. It ascends to 177 feet above the Neches River in Texas. The Rainbow Bridge was designed this way to allow passage of what was, at the time, the tallest ship in the U.S. Navy — the USS Patoka — but the passage never happened. However, the height of the bridge did allow for the construction of jack-up offshore drilling rigs at the Bethlehem Steel Beaumont Shipyard.

Rainbow Bridge in southeastern Texas. (Photo: Wikipedia)

The Rainbow Bridge is a through truss bridge in southeastern Texas, just upstream from Sabine Lake. Construction on the bridge began in 1936 under the guidance of the Texas State Highway Department. The bridge was completed on Sept. 8, 1938, and the nearby town of Prairie View, on the northeastern end, adopted the name Bridge City. Initially named the Port Arthur-Orange Bridge, it received its current name in 1957. The bridge was listed in the National Register of Historic Places in 1996.

Click here for more FreightWaves articles by Nick Austin.

America’s scariest bridges for truckers
America’s most dangerous roads for truckers: Part 3
America’s most dangerous roads for truckers: Part 4


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Nick Austin

Nick is a meteorologist with 20 years of forecasting and broadcasting experience. He was nominated for a Midsouth Emmy for his coverage during a 2008 western Tennessee tornado outbreak. He received his Bachelor of Science in Meteorology from Florida State University, as well as a Bachelor of Science in Management from the Georgia Tech. Nick is a member of the American Meteorological Society and National Weather Association. As a member of the weather team at WBBJ-TV in Jackson, Tennessee, Nick was nominated for a Mid-South Emmy for live coverage of a major tornado outbreak in February 2008. As part of the weather team at WRCB-TV in Chattanooga, Tennessee, Nick shared the Chattanooga Times-Free Press Best of the Best award for “Best Weather Team” eight consecutive years.