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Posted at 8:55 AM ET, 12/31/2010

New pattern on New York Ave.

By Robert Thomson

NY Ave 12-10.jpg
To left of Wendy's sign, New York Avenue rises over tracks north of Union Station. (Thomson)

12.31 Update: The District Department of Transportation plans to begin the new traffic pattern on New York Avenue NE between Florida Avenue and Penn Street on Jan. 3. The change will also affect pedestrian traffic. Crews will close the sidewalks in this stretch of New York and detour pedestrians and cyclists to Fourth Street, which runs parallel.

Original post:The District's plan to rebuild the New York Avenue Bridge was a long time in the making, but project managers say it's ready to go now, which means a very long period of disruption for commuters.

Now, a commuter's first question might be: "There's a bridge on New York Avenue?" It's not exactly your classic structure, but the aging bridge is very important to the 65,000 vehicles that use it on an average day. The location is just east of the Wendy's circle, as seen on the photo above. There, the avenue rises over the tracks north of Union Station that are used by Amtrak, MARC, VRE, CSX and Metro.

The importance of those rail links created difficulties with the original engineering plan to replace the bridge. There are plenty of wires and cables for the rail systems right under the bridge. And there's almost no time of day when the tracks are inactive. The bridge replacement was redesigned as the impact of those construction realities became clearer, and is now ready to go.

As with so many other D.C. bridge projects -- Chain Bridge, the 14th Street Bridge, the Douglass Bridge -- the main goal of the reconstruction is safety. That's an excellent goal, and one with a high impact. It's just that commuters who must endure years of delays during the work don't see much in the results, except the better pavement.

Traffic impact
The rebuilding of the bridge will get started in the next few weeks and will continue into 2013. In the first phase, through the winter and spring and into the summer, one of the six lanes along this half-mile stretch of New York Avenue will be taken away by construction. At rush hours, there will be three lanes in the peak direction and two in the other direction. Then, starting in the summer, two lanes will be taken away for about two years. This will leave two lanes open in each direction, and project managers think it will result in traffic delays of 15 to 30 minutes.

Because of the delay in getting the bridge project started, some of the other road projects along the New York Avenue corridor are much further along than they would have been. This is particularly true of the Ninth Street Bridge reconstruction a bit farther east. (You can just see the Ninth Street Bridge on the horizon at the left of the photo.)

That should make the overall impact on commuters more endurable than it originally would have been. However, there are other construction projects scheduled to get underway during 2011 in the I-395 tunnels and on the roadways above them. The District's chief engineer, Ronaldo T. "Nick" Nicholson, mentioned that to me. He knows from his previous job coordinating work on Northern Virginia's megaprojects -- including the HOT lanes, the Dulles Metro line and the Wilson Bridge project -- that one commute can take a traveler through several major work zones.

The impact of the bridge project extends to pedestrians and cyclists: Both sidewalks along the bridge are being blocked off. Detour signs point the way south.

The District Department of Transportation and Stratacomm, the communications company that it often employs to coordinate information about high-impact projects, will try several strategies to ease the burden on travelers. For one thing, they plan to use traditional social media to spread the word about the overall plan and about current conditions. A new camera-based technology will be linked to variable message boards near the work zone to describe current conditions. And the first 2,000 eligible commuters to enroll will get $50 a month they can use for transit fares or vanpools. The program is called Bridge Bucks.

The project also will adjust the signal timing along New York Avenue to ease congestion, then monitor the results in case the lights have to be adjusted some more.

Alternative routes
Some drivers may be able to alter their work schedules so they're not traveling during the most congested times. Others may be able to use an alternative route around the work zone. Here are some suggestions.

* Montana Avenue to Rhode Island Avenue to Lincoln Road to North Capitol Street.
* West Virginia Avenue to Florida Avenue.
* South Dakota Avenue to Rhode Island Avenue to Lincoln Road to North Capitol Street.
* Bladensburg Road to Florida Avenue.
* Kenilworth Avenue to either Benning Road or East Capitol Street or Howard Avenue.

Here's a map of the New York Avenue Bridge area:

View Larger Map

By Robert Thomson  | December 31, 2010; 8:55 AM ET
Categories:  Commuting, Congestion, Construction, District, Driving  | Tags:  Dr. Gridlock, New York Avenue  
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Could you post a link to sign up for the Bridge Bucks program?

Posted by: robwilli | December 16, 2010 11:45 AM | Report abuse

Do you have any info about the ramp from NB Brentwood Parkway to New York Avenue? Will it reopen any time soon? I had assumed it was closed because of the 9th street/Brentwood Parkway bridge work, but could it be connected to the NY Avenue bridge work?

Posted by: sehoriole | December 16, 2010 12:41 PM | Report abuse

Unless you want a ticket (and angry commuters behind you), you cannot turn left from Rhode Island Ave NE to Lincoln Rd NE. Big No Left Turn sign there. Have to continue to North Capitol to turn left.

Posted by: tjs_dc | December 16, 2010 1:02 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock:
robwilli, there's going to be a project Web site called, but it isn't working yet.

sehoriole, I don't have a date for reopening the Brentwood Parkway ramp. It's definitely part of the 9th Street Bridge project. The new bridge is scheduled to open early next year. The old bridge will then be demolished. The entire project is supposed to wrap up on late spring.

tjs_dc, thanks for the caution on the first detour route. I'll get back to the folks at DDOT and see what they have in mind for that.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | December 16, 2010 1:46 PM | Report abuse

The picture shown in the article is not cuurent. Florida Ave & New York Ave are already crazy, 3 lanes to 5 (2) go straight and (1) turns right. Please update the photo to give real view of the current conditions.

Posted by: ggant | December 17, 2010 8:35 AM | Report abuse

NY Avenue is a sick joke!

They should have turned it into an expressway to connect I-395 with Route 50 and the BW-Parkway 20 years ago like Philadelphia did with Vine Street in the late 1980's to connect the Ben Franklin Bridge, I-95, and I-76. During the Barry administration, the idea was floated but it never got anywhere.

You can drive across Center City Philly on the sunken expressway without hitting an intersection and exit at several points; a street-level service road serves local needs.

In other cities, they find ways to efficiently move the traffic. In DC, we get bike lanes.

Posted by: ceefer66 | December 31, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse

"In other cities, they find ways to efficiently move the traffic. In DC, we get bike lanes.

Posted by: ceefer66 | December 31, 2010 10:10 AM | Report abuse"

Ditto. Cars on North Capitol St frequently is on at a standstill because east-bound traffic on Florida backs up into the Florida-North Capitol intersection. Complaints to DDOT are met with shrugs; they refused my request to post a TCO to keep the intersection clear. I can't wait until Klein gets his car-hating butt out of town. Good-bye and good riddance to him.

Posted by: WashingtonDame | December 31, 2010 10:46 AM | Report abuse

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