Organizers of the 20th annual Chesapeake Bay Bridge walk, which begins at 8:45 a.m. Sunday, promise this year's participants a shorter wait for buses shuttling between the bridge and parking areas.
Many walkers complained last year about having to wait up to 90 minutes for shuttles to their cars. The waits occurred after the walkers had finished the 4.5-mile hike and been dropped off at the Bayfest celebration at Sandy Point State Park.
The sight of frustrated walkers queued up for buses in Sandy Point's steamy parking lots was one reason the state Department of Natural Resources canceled Bayfest this year, said DNR spokesman Mike O'Brien. This will be the first time in eight years that Bayfest has not been part of the walk. Many of its environmental and educational activities are now part of the governor's 10-day Treasure the Chesapeake celebration, which concludes Saturday.
The changes should alleviate much of the wait, said Tom Freburger, a spokesman for the Maryland Transportation Authority, the walk's sponsors.
"We'll keep loading buses as [people] come off the bridge," Mr. Freburger said. "The last thing we want to do is make people wait for an hour after they finish the walk."
Free parking will be available at Anne Arundel Community College on Route 2, the Navy-Marine Corps Memorial Stadium in Annapolis and the Chesapeake Bay Industrial Park on Route 8 on the Eastern Shore. No parking will be available at the bridge, Sandy Point State Park, the Annapolis Mall or the Kent Island Airport.
The first shuttles will leave the parking lots about 8:45 a.m. The first walkers should be on the bridge by 9 a.m. The Transportation Authority will be accepting $1 donations for each passenger.
Walkers will be hiking across the original two-lane toll bridge. It normally handles eastbound traffic. The span opened July 31, 1952, and rises 185 feet above the bay.
The Transportation Authority, which operates the state's four toll bridges, two tunnels and single toll road, organized the first bridge walk in 1975, two years after completing a parallel, westbound span.
Since 1986, the event has averaged 50,000 walkers each year. It will cost the Transportation Authority about $220,000 this year, Mr. Freburger said. The money, which comes from tolls, is to pay for leasing shuttle buses from the Mass Transit Administration, paying drivers and providing amenities, he said.
Mr. Freburger said the bridge walk will be canceled if there is rain or high winds. Potential walkers can call 1-800-541-9595 after 6 a.m. Sunday to learn if the event has been canceled.