Mock Cape May-Lewes Tunnel

A mock rendering of a tunnel connecting Cape May, New Jersey and Lewes, Delaware submitted on April 1, 2022

The State of Delaware's official social media page attempted to trick people into thinking there would be a tunnel built between Lewes and Cape May, but it does have some basis in reality.

The @delaware_gov account of twitter posted this at 9:08 a.m. on April 1, 2022: 

"In order to improve relations, Delaware and New Jersey announced a partnership to add a new underwater tunnel between the Delaware Beaches to the Jersey Shore."

While there was was the expected "y r u so obsessed with me" from New Jersey's official page, a tunnel or bridge-tunnel that would replace the current Cape May-Lewes Ferry has been studied in the past.

The New York Times reported in 1977 a 17-19 mile bridge linking the two coastal communities could cost $200-250 million.

Then-DRBA Chairman Clarence McCormick told the Times "It's a waste of time unless the Federal Government wants to put up the half‐billion dollars will take, and that I doubt very much.”

Another study was considered in 2003, when the estimate went up to $1 billion, but no action was taken, with DRBA currently considering replacing or modifying its fleet of ferries. 

The closest comparison to a potential bridge or bridge-tunnel is 145 miles further south on Delmarva.

The Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel takes Route 13 from the peninsula to the Tidewater region of Norfolk and Virginia Beach, which has a metro area of about 1.8 million people.

The 17.6-mile series of bridges and tunnels was paid for by $200 million in bonds. It took four years to build, and was completed in 1964.

The last major expansion was a $250 million project 1999, when parallel bridges were added, making it a two-lane road in each direction, except for the tunnels.

A parallel tunnel to the southern one is under construction, and is expected to be finished in 2026.

According to their 2019 annual report, the CBBT hosted 4,042,359 vehicles, gathering over $64.7 million in tolls.

In comparison, the Cape May-Lewes Ferry carries about 300,000 vehicles per year.

Other factors would have to be considered, if that goal would be to create a highway that connects New York and New England to the Virginia Beach region.

The Garden State Parkway begins just over a mile from the Cape May terminal, and provides a highway that connects via the Atlantic City Expressway to Philadelphia, and the New Jersey Turnpike to New York.

There is no similar highway system on the Delaware side, with the limited-access portion of Route 1 ending just south of the Dover Air Force Base, and the only highway south of that point on Delmarva being the Salisbury, Maryland Bypass.

A 2006 Virginia DOT study considered creating a "I-99" that run through coastal communities from Wilmington to Charleston, South Carolina, but would have bypassed the Lewes-Cape May region.

It cited a 2002 DelDOT estimate it would cost $400-750 million (closer to $1 billion with inflation) to upgrade or create a new highway between Milford and Selbyville. 

Maryland's portion also included an emphasis on upgrading its US 301 and MD 404 corridors, which has gone over the last two decades, removing all traffic lights on 301 between Middletown and Route 50.

Ultimately, it was decided that Delaware, Maryland, Virginia, North Carolina, and South Carolina all had differing infrastructure priorities.

At least for the foreseeable future, it appears anyone looking to take their car between Lewes and Cape May will need to settle for the 85-minute ferry ride,

One perk for travelers are the restaurants and amenities on both sides have been upgraded in recent years, but no bridge or tunnel.