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D.C. Discusses Douglass Bridge Closing

Bottom line for commuters on the temporary closing of the Frederick Douglass Bridge this summer: "No question it's going to be painful."

That was the message delivered to reporters this morning by Kathleen Penney, deputy chief engineer for the District Department of Transportation, which is in charge of the bridge reconstruction.

South Capitol Street commuters who want to continue driving toward downtown Washington during the shutdown, scheduled to begin the night of July 6, will use the 11th Street Bridge as the primary detour, but also might choose to cross the Anacostia River on East Capitol Street, Benning Road or New York Avenue. If you cross at East Capitol Street you could park at RFK Stadium for $5 a day and take Metrorail or a bus downtown.

An additional lane of I-295 between Suitland Parkway and the 11th Street Bridge will be paved to increase traffic capacity.

I think most drivers would be better off staying on the east side of the river and parking at the Anacostia Metro station, where you can board a Green Line train downtown.

More than 600 commuters have been approved for the very good Bridge Bucks program, which will provide a $50 per month subsidy to take transit during the shutdown. You can still get in on this.

But there's no box of chocolates in this for transit users. Metro has made plans to reroute buses that normally use the Douglass Bridge and will adjust fares for those riders, because they'll be ending their bus trips at Green Line stations east of the river. But there aren't any more rail cars coming to the Green Line this summer. Metro added some cars to all the lines earlier this spring and the Green Line got some. So what you Green Line riders have now is what's going to be available when the bridge shutdown begins.

The Maryland Transit Administration has yet to announce any route changes or fare adjustments for the bus routes that bring commuters from Prince George's County and Southern Maryland. The MTA plans to let riders know next week, but the options are limited. MTA officials met with riders in Washington on Wednesday to get their opinions on how to deal with the shutdown.

Here's the upside for commuters: DDOT officials expect traffic to decline sharply during the July-August vacation season. And while they continue to say this is a two-month project, they are offering the contractor a million-dollar incentive to finish it in a month.

The $27 million project has to be done. It will save the bridge and extend its life for 10 to 15 years, DDOT says. But it also will turn South Capitol Street into what DDOT officials describe as a "grand urban boulevard" heading past the new baseball stadium, new restaurants, shops and offices toward the Capitol building.

What you'll probably notice first: When the elevated roadway on the northern side is lowered to street level, there will be a new intersection at Potomac Avenue and South Capitol Street, just as you come off the bridge heading downtown. That will be controlled by a new traffic signal, though long range plans call for creation of a traffic circle at the end of a new, and as yet unfunded replacement for the Douglass Bridge.

By Robert Thomson  |  June 7, 2007; 12:28 PM ET
Categories:  Construction  
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I hope they work on the on-ramp from I-295 north to the 11th St Bridge before anything happens with the Douglass Bridge. Apparently the two-lane exit was recently converted to a one-lane exit. I don't take I-295 very often, so I don't know how recent this is, but for the life of me, I can't figure out a single reason why this change was made. The ramp itself is still two lanes, so why change it to a one-lane exit?

If today's backups are any indication, DDOT needs to some work, and fast, to deal with that stretch of road before the bridge closure makes it even worse.

Posted by: Andrew | June 7, 2007 1:50 PM | Report abuse

Where is the parking at RFK to be? I ask because I'm curious how it might affect parking for baseball games. I normally drive to RFK (except for weekday afternoon games) because the drive home takes less than half the time that a subway ride would take, so I'm wondering which areas will be set aside for commuter parking.

Posted by: Rich | June 7, 2007 3:10 PM | Report abuse

I agree with Andrew - why on earth did they take away the second lane to go up on 395 is beyond me, and they posted no sign to say - Lane Change. When there was two lanes you could just stay in your lane and go up the ramp, very easy. Now you have to move into one lane and you get mixed up with the traffic coming on from the entrance at the same spot just about. Does not make sense.

Posted by: Debbie | June 19, 2007 9:38 AM | Report abuse

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