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Good progress on bridge fix

Eastern Ave Bridge.jpg
Each night, workers add prefabricated bridge deck sections atop the prefab piers. (Thomson)

Drivers who use the BW Parkway/Kenilworth Avenue/Anacostia Freeway corridor have endured years of road and bridge construction along their route. But the latest project underway in the District, the bridge reconstruction above Kenilworth Avenue, is advancing rapidly thanks to an innovative construction plan.

Federal Highway Administrator Victor Mendez and Gabe Klein, the District's transportation director, visited the work site at Kenilworth and Eastern avenues Tuesday morning to note the accomplishment. The District Department of Transportation and the Federal Highway Administration worked together to create the plan and the funding for the replacement of the deteriorating bridge, a project that began in January and is scheduled to be done in October.

By using prefabricated piers and prefabricated sections of bridge deck that were trucked in from Schuylerville in upstate New York, project managers have reduced the time estimate for the bridge replacement from two years to less than one year.

Drivers and workers find themselves in the midst of a crucial week on this project. The prefab piers were installed in the middle of Kenilworth Avenue in May. Now, a crane moves in each night on Kenilworth to lift huge sections of the bridge deck into place. During the day, crews work on joining the deck sections, which will eventually be topped with asphalt lanes, concrete sidewalks and protective railings.

Drivers will find the main lanes of Kenilworth closed overnight through Friday night/Saturday morning, when the last of the deck sections is scheduled to be put in place. Late at night, traffic gets by on the service roads.

Mendez, who was director of the Arizona Department of Transportation before becoming federal administrator, has been touring the country during what the Obama Administration describes as Recovery Summer, highlighting road and bridge projects that have benefited from the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act or the Highways for LIFE program, or both, as did the Eastern Avenue Bridge project. (Mendez said his next visit will be to Doyle Drive (Route 101), on the southern approach to the Golden Gate Bridge in San Francisco, another beneficiary of these federal funds.)

Highways for LIFE encourages states to build roads faster and at lower costs. Klein noted that the Eastern Avenue Bridge program, which got $9.6 million in stimulus funds and $1 million as a Highways for LIFE grant, stands to benefit commuters and D.C. taxpayers, if it stays on time and on budget.

Travelers on both Kenilworth Avenue and Eastern Avenue should like the result. On Kenilworth, the clearance will be 16 feet. The old bridge, at 14 feet, was notorious for clipping the tops off trucks. From the Eastern Avenue level above Kenilworth, the first thing you notice is how wide the new bridge will be. It includes a truck lane, in an area with heavy truck traffic, to keep it separated from cars, cyclists and pedestrians. Planters along the bridge will provide some greenery.

But in the meantime, remain cautious as you drive through this area, whether you're on Kenilworth, the service roads, or Eastern Avenue. There's plenty of activity, and there are lots of distractions. It's a work zone and a neighborhood.

By Robert Thomson  | July 20, 2010; 1:30 PM ET
Categories:  Construction, District, Driving  | Tags:  DDOT, Dr. Gridlock  
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