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Summer Detour for D.C. Commuters

The Frederick Douglass Bridge, an important commuter route that carries South Capitol Street traffic over the Anacostia River will be shut down for July and August for a big reconstruction job. Drivers will be detoured north to the 11th Street Bridge.

Just setting up the big traffic diversion is an interesting and ambitious goal, but that's nothing compared to the work itself:

When the bridge reopens, drivers will be in for a very different experience. The northern part of the crossing will be cranked down to put nearly three blocks of the elevated roadway at street level. There will be a new intersection at Potomac Avenue.

The District government wants to improve the appearance of one of the city's gateways, one that leads travelers north toward the U.S. Capitol, and to stitch together a neighborhood now divided by the elevated roadway.

The big closing is scheduled for the summer when traffic is at its lowest point. The District Department of Transportation will focus on managing the traffic with media alerts, message boards and a rapid response to incidents that block the flow of vehicles. If you don't want to deal with it, one option is to park at the Anacostia Metro station, where there's usually excess space, and take the Green Line downtown.

Before the big closing this summer, there will be several weekend closings to replace bridge expansion joints. The first is this weekend: The inbound lanes will close between 10 a.m. Friday and 4 a.m. Monday. Detour signs on I-295 North will lead to the 11th Street Bridge. Pedestrians and bikes can still use the bridge during the weekend closures.

There's still another big project to come, and that's the replacement of the bridge itself with a new span a bit farther south. The old bridge would remain open during that construction. Once the new span opened, it would connect up with the same new street-level roadway at South Capitol.

Drivers, what problems would you expect out of all this? Projects involving the gateways to the capital city tend to generate tensions among different types of travelers and between commuters and residents. This could prove to be one of them. The work will add several new signal-controlled intersections to South Capitol Street. The city government believes this project will help open up the neighborhood, which includes the Nationals' baseball stadium, scheduled to open in 2008.

By Robert Thomson  |  January 23, 2007; 5:26 PM ET
Categories:  Construction  
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Next: Watch For Wilson Bridge Work

Comments

Any ideas how to get into the city from 295 South now? I go to Arlington from Bowie on Sunday evenings and usually use this bridge. My only other thought right now is to use 50 to 395, which sounds like torture. Is there a better way?

Posted by: kate | January 24, 2007 11:24 AM | Report abuse

Go to the Howard Road exit, make a left at the light, then the first left back on to 295 north. You'll see the signs for Navy Yard and 395 at the 11th street bridge. Must faster than taking the Douglas bridge back into the city.

http://maps.google.com/?ie=UTF8&z=16&ll=38.866995,-76.992531&spn=0.010509,0.021393&om=1

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2007 11:37 AM | Report abuse

This leaves three options for getting from 395N to 295N:

1. Take the 11th street bridge to 295S, take the Suitland Parkway exit around the loop then right back onto 295N.

2. Take the 11th street bridge to 295S, but take the Howard Road exit, make a left on to Howard Road, then take the first left back onto 295N.

3. Use...shudder...Pennsylvania Ave exit off of 395N, cross the bridge and wait forever at the light to make a left onto 295N.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2007 11:41 AM | Report abuse

I've never un derstood why they can't simply connect 395 and 295 and call it day.

Oh, I forgot. "Local opposition" from people who didn't even live in the neighborhood killed the Barney Circle Connector bridge proposed in the mid-nineties.

So much for the greater good.

Posted by: CEEAF | January 24, 2007 1:18 PM | Report abuse

But they ARE going to build the 395-295 connection. I believe the plan is to add ramps bwteen the 11th street bridge and 295 northbound as part of an 11th street bridge rehab project.

Posted by: lothar | January 24, 2007 1:54 PM | Report abuse

from bowie to arlingon

If you are near the b-w pkwy..I would just take that all the way into town...cut over on mass ave...go around the circle to rhode island-m st...take a left on 19th then a right on E and over the tr bridge

Posted by: shambells | January 24, 2007 2:16 PM | Report abuse

Nightmare doesn't even begin to describe this scenario. As it is, all commuters coming from south of the city basically have two options: Douglass Bridge and 11th Street. We will have only one option those two months, and traffic will be backed up terribly. I've sat on the Suitland Parkway not moving for an hour and this will only make it worse. I can't imagine how they are going to empty all that inbound traffic from Suitland Parkway onto the one lane road with traffic lights (Firth Stirling) leading onto the 295North ramp.

Posted by: Waldorf | January 24, 2007 2:23 PM | Report abuse

The detour signs are already up, and they just take you to the naval station, NOT back around to 295N and the 11th street bridge.

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2007 2:40 PM | Report abuse

Seeing three lanes of Suiland traffic turning on to Firth Stirling (the Suitland -> 11th Street Bridge connection) which is already overcrowded (made more so by lane jumpers and other insanity) will make this a miserable event in SE. Pennsylvania Avenue might become an option but it will take some retiming of the lights in the morning to allow more cars through (and fewer out of the city).

Posted by: Andrew | January 24, 2007 3:35 PM | Report abuse

my my ...I couldn't have planned my retirement date any better...July 2007

Posted by: Anonymous | January 24, 2007 3:49 PM | Report abuse

I'm glad I take the commuter bus (MTA) from Southern Maryland. At least I can sleep, read, eat, etc. while we get through this mess. Now getting to work on time will be the next challenge...

Posted by: Another Waldorf Resident | January 24, 2007 3:57 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, everyone. I was hoping to avoid the Howard Road flip around, but it looks like I'm doomed to it. Well, at least I don't have to deal with the longer than eternity light at the bottom of the Howard Road exit...

Posted by: kate | January 24, 2007 4:25 PM | Report abuse

I can't imagine Pennsylvania Avenue is a much better option than Suitland Parkway. That backs up to the MD line in the mornings as it is.

This is really going to screw the residents who live east of the Anacostia River. They already have to deal with an overabundance of MD commuters clogging up their streets. This will make the problem substantially worse.

Posted by: GhettoBurbs | January 24, 2007 4:50 PM | Report abuse

Kate, have you considered exiting at East Capitol Street (the RFK exit) and going across Constitution Avenue to the Capitol? It's not ideal, but it might be better than making those U-turns. The ideal way would be to cut through the RFK car parks and then take the RFK Access Road to the SE-SW Freeway (I-695), but I'm sure the Access Road is probably closed when the Nationals and United are not playing.

Posted by: Rich | January 24, 2007 5:58 PM | Report abuse

Uh oh - I ride my bicycle across the bridge back and forth on my way from the SW waterfront to Bolling AFB/Navy Anacostia
Annex. Wonder how I'll get over the Anacostia now?

Posted by: John | January 24, 2007 6:17 PM | Report abuse

The closing of the bridge for a few months is only the start of the problem. Once the new lower bridge is opened, it will lead to more congestion with a traffic circle and mostl likely more traffic lights for all of the side streets. I understand the district wanting to make this a community street by lowering the road, but this is a main link into the city. Maybe a tunnel should be put in to bypass the stadium traffic for people that need to get to 395 and into the main part of the city.

Posted by: ccook | January 25, 2007 9:23 AM | Report abuse

A tunnel should be included along South Capitol Street, and was included in the 2003 planning.

But the people doing the planning do not seem to care for anything but maximum real estate development (look what happened to NCPC's South Capitol Mall).

If anything, the area to the west should be the tunnel route, as the east side looks hopeless.

Posted by: Douglas Willinger | January 25, 2007 12:43 PM | Report abuse

Recently, I moved from Waterfront SW to Randle Heights SE due to a home purchase. My commute EACH day is a NIGHTMARE. It literally takes me at least 30 minutes to cross Frederick Douglas Bridge from Suitland Rd or South Capitol St. I've even changed my commute from riding on 295 to 395 to VA but it's soo congested that riding on the Douglass bridge will take 10 minutes off of my commute. I'm aware that during the summer months the congestion is not as bad; however, I've lived in my house in the month of August and cried to my husband each day about the commute. I love my job in Vienna and don't feel I should have to find a new employer just to fix my commute. On raining days it's even worst 45 minutes at least to drive across that bridge. Taking the metro is just as crazy b/c of the 30 minute bus ride that converts to a 15 minute car drive from the metro station is just ludicrous. And don't miss the bus b/c it takes 30 minutes before the next bus arrives at the station.

I am a fan of the new development even the proposed soccer stadium at Poplar Point and would love to see it surface but taking my already long commute is going to kill me. I guess I will be telecommuting some days.

Posted by: Anita | January 25, 2007 4:14 PM | Report abuse

Anita,
Did you not think about your potential commute when buying your house?

Posted by: Baltimore | January 26, 2007 8:15 AM | Report abuse

"it will lead to more congestion with a traffic circle and mostl likely more traffic lights for all of the side streets."

The idea of a circular intersection is not a bad idea per se, as a properly-designed roundabout is a lot more efficient than a traffic light. But DC refuses to build roundabouts and instead builds ghastly "traffic circles" that wind up making a mess and that often have their own traffic lights and improper yield setups. The whole point of a circular intersection is to ELIMINATE lights! Look at Washington Circle--where else do you have to stop ON the circle to wait at a red light that prohibits you from turning right out of the circle? It's idiotic, and the idiots who run the city are too stupid or stubborn to redesign the circles to eliminate the design flaws. (Only in the District of Columbia do you find a circle that requires traffic ON the circle to yield to traffic ENTERING the circle; this happens at the west end of Memorial Bridge. The correct design has entering traffic yield to traffic already on the circle/roundabout.)

The idea of lowering the road next to the ballpark is exactly what they should be doing, but designing that road to be like roads laid out 100 years ago is a big mistake.

Posted by: Rich | January 26, 2007 9:11 AM | Report abuse

I think that I-295 should 'lose a lane' at the point where Suitland will merge onto the 11th Street bridge. If, during rush hour, DDOT put up cones to free up the right lane to non-stop traffic coming off Firth Stirling / Suitland, then the detour might not be as bad.

It already looks messy today and they just closed one half.

Posted by: Andrew | January 26, 2007 12:57 PM | Report abuse

The comments to this entry are closed.

 
 
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