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D.C. Prepares for Bridge Shutdown

There's a lot of anxiety among commuters over the planned shutdown this summer of the Douglass Bridge, which brings them into downtown Washington from points south and east. Now the District has launched a program to help them find and finance alternative ways to reach work.

Douglass Bridge traffic.jpg Traffic heads across Frederick Douglass Bridge. (Mark Gail -- The Washington Post)

Modeled after a program used during the Woodrow Wilson Bridge construction, the District Department of Transportation's "Bridge Bucks" program will provide $50 per month toward transit fares and vanpool fees.

By providing financial resources and personal advice on transit services, the program enables individual commuters to utilize alternative travel options that best work for their particular lifestyle - whether via rail, bus or vanpool.

The launching of this program, designed to ease traffic congestion and travel times during the July and August shutdown of the South Capitol Street bridge over the Anacostia River, also cranks up the publicity campaign to make sure commuters are aware of the project and able to plan for its impact.

The need certainly is there: I've heard from many travelers who are concerned about how they'll get to work in the District or in Northern Virginia during the summer. They don't like the primary driving alternative of using the 11th Street Bridge. And there probably are plenty of people unaware of the summertime plan, even though DDOT began its publicity campaign early this year and has been shutting down bridge lanes on some weekends for prep work.

As the summer approaches, DDOT is starting a major outreach campaign to raise awareness, promote Bridge Bucks and commuting alternatives and recommend detour routes. You may hear radio ads targeting solo drivers and urging them to change the way they get to and from their jobs.

As for the Bridge Bucks, they are available to the first 1,500 qualified people who commute daily across the Douglass Bridge. You can use this link to reach the online enrollment form, or call 866-922-8257.

Applicants will be asked to provide their origin and destination addresses and specific commute route, and fax in copies of their driver's licenses. A Bridge Bucks representative will call the applicant to confirm eligibility and work out what transit option is best for the commute. Transit passes, schedules and maps will be mailed to the commuter.

Sounds like a pretty good deal: They help you work out an alternative commute for July and August and they subsidize it.

Why are they putting you through all this in the first place? The summertime project is huge. The District is trying to extend the lifetime of the half-century old bridge while changing the setup on the northern side (the downtown side). Engineers will lower that elevated roadway down to street level as part of a neighborhood improvement plan intended to knit the community together with at-grade intersections.

DDOT also will be paving and painting the entire bridge and improving the streetscape and lighting along South Capitol Street.

Other travel aides during the closure: Throughout the region, you'll see highway message signs listing the bridge closure and detours and more motorist assistance patrols, especially along the main detour routes, to help clear traffic incidents.

When we get details on bus schedule and route changes for the summer, I'll post them here on Get There.

By Robert Thomson  |  May 8, 2007; 6:34 AM ET
Categories:  Construction  
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Next: Something to Like About a Commute?


Weeeeeeelll...isn't this special!

Posted by: 82AllAmericans | May 8, 2007 10:05 AM | Report abuse

More gridlock, wonderful!

Posted by: commutercooter | May 8, 2007 10:22 AM | Report abuse

Really, I don't get it. Won't this make traffic much worse by ADDING intersections? I would think the original idea of the elevated roadway was to avoid intersections. Also, isn't it easier for pedestrians to walk under the roadway, then across it? I'm all for pretty, but I wonder who is really benefiting here.

Posted by: Bill Monroe | May 8, 2007 11:40 AM | Report abuse

If you've ever been on Potomac Avenue under the Douglass Bridge, you'd prefer to take your chances crossing the roadway.

Evening rush is slow getting on the outbound lanes, so a new intersection or two likely won't hurt. Unless the traffic circle they're planning for the foot of the bridge has stoplights like Dupont Circle...

Posted by: dirrtysw | May 8, 2007 11:47 AM | Report abuse

The main point is to provide access to the ballpark.

Posted by: aj | May 8, 2007 11:55 AM | Report abuse

I'm all for this project, as every time I cross this bridge I'm appalled by seeing a rusted hulk as the gateway to S. Capitol. It's also starting to look like it's crumbling a bit. And that area wasn't really an inviting part of town before the ballpark construction took over.

So what's the status on the proposed new Douglass Bridge?

Posted by: Not a moment too soon | May 8, 2007 12:11 PM | Report abuse

We have to remember that the realignment is temporary until the new bridge is completed ( 2010 I believe). They still haven't decided what type yet. I hope the cable stayed swinging is chosen because it looks very modern. Probably the best thing out of this waterfront initiative will be the Souza Bridge/295 and 11th Street/295 interchange improvements. I can't wait until everything is complete! Its been a long time coming.

Posted by: Sivad | May 8, 2007 5:00 PM | Report abuse

What about bike commuters who use the Douglas Bridge. They can't just "hop on" metro. DDOT was interested in approaching Metro to remove the rush hour restriction between Anacostia and L'Enfant Plaza. Do you know what happened with that?

Posted by: washcycle | May 8, 2007 5:09 PM | Report abuse

For afternoon Southbound 295 commuters trying to link up w/ 395 South, our current legal options are crossing over the Douglas Bridge or doing the 295 U-turn at Howard Road and using the 11th St Bridge accessible from 295 North.

Once the Douglas Bridge is closed, is there any chance that we'll be able to make LEGAL u-turns at the Pennsylvania Ave exit off of 295 South? I've never seen anyone ticketed for making the illegal u-turn to go inbound on Pennsylvania Ave but making this a legal option while the Douglas Bridge is being worked on may help alleviate the 295 South crush that's bound to develop leading up to the Howard Rd exit.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 8, 2007 5:23 PM | Report abuse

The new Douglass Bridge probably won't event be started until 2011, just to comment on what one of the commenters said.

Posted by: JD | May 8, 2007 5:50 PM | Report abuse

The freeway is going to be horrible through the construction phase of the bridge, of course.

But HOPEFULLY it will help the standstill traffic that the freeway has as people sit trying to exit S Capitol St.

There's nothing worse in DC than that!!

Posted by: mc | May 9, 2007 5:13 AM | Report abuse

Yet another boo-boo by urban planners. The bridge should be fixed but it should be kept elevated and separate from pedestrian traffic.

These "designers" still have not figured out how to move traffic and make the city liveable.

Posted by: tchtic | May 9, 2007 5:51 AM | Report abuse

Hopefully they do some prepwork on the merge lane on the Suitland Parkway under 295 before Firth Ave to keep the traffic from the off ramp from 295S making the merge back onto 295N from getting stuck in the backup at the light on Firth Ave.

Posted by: Anonymous | May 9, 2007 3:00 PM | Report abuse

I agree the bridge needs refurbishing but closing it completely is ridiculous. If one accident that sits 2 hours on Maine Ave. can cripple all the Anacostia River crossings (how many times has THAT happened), then what will closing the Douglass Bridge for two months do? Offering subsidies for public transportation works great for those within Metro's reach, but how do they expect the commuter buses to get into town with everyone packed into the 2 available bridges left? We are the dispensible commuters. They would never get away with doing this on the 14th St. or TR bridges.

Posted by: MBFisher | May 22, 2007 2:53 PM | Report abuse

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