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The new Wilson Bridge opens! Sorta.

Get There offers its sincere apologies for not getting here before now. I've been out most of the day at the celebration for the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

Before you get too excited, this is only the first of two bridges and is not expected to dramatically improve commutes. It's six lanes just like the old one, though it does have shoulders to clear accidents. It's also taller, so the drawbridge won't have to open very much.

The real changes are expected in two years when a second six lane bridge opens. That'll double capacity across the bridge and conceivably erase the daily jams that plague bridge traffic.

Still, that didn't stop project officials from holding a big celebration today that seemed to include every local, state and federal official you can imagine. Some even brought their families.

The crowd of about 1,000 transportation officials and construction workers got tired of hearing them applaud their efforts pretty quickly. After enduring speeches by U.S. Transportation Secretary Norman Y. Mineta, Virginia Gov. governor Timothy M. Kaine, Maryland Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and D.C. Mayor Anthony A. Williams, the crowd let out a big moan when they learned that a bunch of Congressman also wanted to speak.

So that brought Virginia Senator John Warner to the podium, where he recounted a story about getting money for the bridge. The crowd seemed to like it, but saved their biggest applause for the next three speakers--Virginia Congresmen Tom Davis, Jim Moran and Frank Wolf--who went up together and very quickly said everyone worked on it, it was great and God bless. The crowd roared its approval.

Alas, Maryland Congressman Steny Hoyer didn't take the hint and proceeded to speak for some time. And on it went.

Check out my article on the bridge in Friday's paper to get more details and also a special web chat with construction manager Jim Ruddell at 11 a.m. Friday. Jim's a cool guy and a big reason the bridge got built, so it's worth checking out.

As for me, I'm celebrating the opening of the bridge by taking Friday off. Do your best to make it through the day without me. I'll see you back here Monday morning...

By Washington Post Editors  |  May 18, 2006; 5:48 PM ET
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This is good news, although if I may take an oft-needed opportunity to skewer the pols: These folks are simply emblems of circumstance; building a new Woodrow Wilson Brige was NEVER a question of "if." It had to be done. Bearing that in mind, the bloviating must have been unbearable after a point.

My thanks goes out to all the folks who did the designing, the digging, the welding, and the paving. They are truly the "how" in all of this.

Posted by: SignOf4 | May 19, 2006 11:42 AM | Report abuse

How ironic that the dedication of the span coincided with Bike To Work Day. It would have been more appropriate if the dedication were a memorial in advance to the 40,000 to 50,000 people who will die in auto crashes in the United States during the next year, never mind that the fuel consumption contributes to self-asphyxiation, trade imbalance, and national insecurity.

Posted by: Raymond | May 19, 2006 12:13 PM | Report abuse

When the lanes on the approach equal the number of lanes on the bridge instead of merging traffic then you might get some gridlock relief.

Can anything be done about the steep grade of the hill on the inner loop approach to the bridge-that causes the truckers a lot of grief.

Posted by: MD95 | May 22, 2006 4:52 PM | Report abuse

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