The Key Bridge was named after the national anthem’s author.


The Francis Scott Key Bridge, which collapsed after being struck by a cargo ship early Tuesday, was named after the American lawyer who wrote the lyrics of the national anthem. Construction of the bridge started in 1972 and was completed in March 1977.

Plans for the bridge began in the early 1970s, after traffic inundated the Baltimore Harbor Tunnel, through which Interstate 895 crosses the harbor. When the bridge opened, The New York Times reported that construction costs had totaled $141 million, which is roughly $735 million in today’s dollars.

More than 12.4 million passenger and commercial vehicles crossed the bridge in 2023, according to a Maryland state government report.

The bridge itself spans 1.6 miles over the Patapsco River, but the crossing’s overall structure, including its connecting approaches, is almost 11 miles long. As part of Interstate 695, it is the outermost of three major crossings of the Baltimore Harbor.

Francis Scott Key was believed to be near the site of the future bridge in 1814 when he observed the British bombardment of Fort McHenry, where he served as quartermaster, during the War of 1812. The battle inspired Mr. Key to write a poem called “The Defense of Fort M’Henry” that would later be set to the music of a popular British tune and renamed “The Star-Spangled Banner.” It became the national anthem in 1931.

After the bridge opened to the public, parts of it underwent renovation several times, including a $14 million project in 1986 to repair damage, improve safety and restore the bridge’s appearance.

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