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Progress on Three Bridges

The District and Maryland are reporting progress on some of bridge projects that have vexed commuters: the Klingle Bridge on Connecticut Avenue, South Capitol Street's Douglass Bridge and the Capital Beltway's Legion Bridge.

Klingle: The District Department of Transportation says that on Wednesday the bridge rehabilitation will move into the far right lanes on the northbound side and the sidewalk. The other sidewalk, on the bridge's west side, will remain open.

Klingle Begins.jpg Work on Connecticut Avenue bridge began last fall. (Robert Thomson)

For motorists, it's the same drill. Watch those red and green arrows overhead to tell you which lanes are open and don't get them confused with the red and green of the traffic signals at the intersections north and south of the bridge.

During the morning rush, three lanes will be open southbound and one northbound. During evening rush, three lanes will be open northbound direction with one southbound. All other times, it's two open in each direction.

Work hours are Monday through Saturday from 7 a.m. to 7 p.m. The whole thing is scheduled to be done in April.

Douglass: The reconstruction that began on July 6 is on schedule, DDOT said. So far, workers have removed the concrete deck, installed the equipment to lower the elevated roadway on the north side and demolished the steel structure, ramp and abutment on South Capitol Street.

Douglass Detour.jpg Detoured traffic heads for 11th Street Bridge. (Robert Thomson)

The highlight for this week should come on Thursday, when the elevated roadway is scheduled to be lowered.
But the repairs to the bridge deck also will continue, along with some utility work on South Capitol Street.

All the transportation agencies involved are continuing to monitor the commute to see what adjustments they might need to make. DDOT, for example, was working on the timing of the lights along Pennsylvania Avenue, because it seemed that traffic was sluggish east of the Anacostia River while the Sousa Bridge was pretty open.

One Southern Maryland commuter wrote in to say that outbound traffic is backing up at ramp from I-295 that leads onto southbound Suitland Parkway and thinks the timing of the first traffic light may be part of the problem. DDOT spokeswoman Karyn LeBlanc said the department would check on that one, too.

Metro made some more buses available for the routes that are bringing people to the Green Line stations. The Maryland Transit Administration said its commuter bus schedules would stay the same this week, but it could still make changes later, based on experience.

Legion: The Maryland State Highway Administration says the staging area south of the bridge, which has been slowing traffic trying to merge from the northbound George Washington Parkway onto the Capital Beltway's inner loop, should be gone by mid-September. The original target was mid-November, but SHA says the bridge repainting is ahead of schedule.

Beltway merge.jpg Parkway traffic merges onto Beltway at right. (Robert Thomson)

The project itself will continue into next year, but the staging area -- the part that really affects the flow of traffic -- can be out of there about two months from now. After that, the main impact on motorists would be occasional overnight closings of single lanes on the outer loop of the bridge.

By Robert Thomson  |  July 17, 2007; 5:25 AM ET
Categories:  Construction  
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Comments

I say this reluctantly but nevertheless: Kudos to MD SHA for getting the ALB repainting project done two-months ahead of schedule.

The mid-September target date to remove the barriers from the merge lane is much improved, but still not optimal. I'm concerned about how horrific traffic will become in this after immediately after Labor Day once everyone in the area returns home and resumes their normal schedule. Things may be down right hellish for two weeks or so in September before the barriers are removed.

The project itself will continue into next year, but the staging area -- the part that really affects the flow of traffic -- can be out of there about two months from now. After that, the main impact on motorists would be occasional overnight closings of single lanes on the outer loop of the bridge.


By Robert Thomson | July 17, 2007; 5:25 AM ET | Category: Construction
Previous: Not So Calm About Conn. Avenue |

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I say this reluctantly but nevertheless: Kudos to MD SHA for getting the ALB repainting project done two-months ahead of schedule.

The mid-September target date to remove the barriers from the merge lane is much improved, but still not optimal. I'm concerned about how horrific traffic will become in this after immediately after Labor Day once everyone in the area returns home and resumes their normal schedule. Things may be down right hellish for two weeks or so in September before the barriers are removed.

Dr. G, you note that occasional nighttime closers of lanes may occur on the outer loop once the painting project shifts over there. Now for the million dollar question, why couldn't MD SHA follow this plan (overnight lane closures) when doing the work on the northbound side?



Posted by: xyv1027 | July 17, 2007 9:12 AM | Report abuse

I'm glad. But, I'd like to know how the MD SHA decided to block the Legion bridge lane for months. Logically, perhaps they calculated the cost of doing that to all the MD taxpayers who need to go that way and lose time each day, and balanced it against the cost of locating the equipment somewhere else. Perhaps. If anyone knows, please explain: how was the decision made?

Posted by: Lee | July 17, 2007 5:03 PM | Report abuse

I'd like to explain why the ramp lane needed to be reduced on the inner loop of I-495 at the American Legion Bridge since late April.

The equipment needed to blast the old paint off of the Bridge is huge, cumbersome and not easily moved. In addition, SHA was recycling paint materials with also needed to be properly stored in a large contained unit, which also is housed on the Bridge and not very mobile. This is not like a paving machine that can be moved into place each night - this equipment is more stationary, and much more difficult to maneuever. In addition, the 24 hour-a-day placement of this equipment allowed this work to be done in about five months with an anticipated re-opening of the ramp by mid-September (about two and a half months ahead of schedule).

The subsequent single-lane off peak closures needed this fall to complete the project are very different than the current permanent lane closure, in that the equipment used to paint (not blast) is much more mobile and can be moved nightly.

Understanding the delays have been significant at times, without the permanent several month partial ramp closure, this project would have lasted easily more than two years, resulting in extended delays for a much longer timeframe.

I hope this helps - SHA does sincerely apologize for the delays as a result of the reduced ramp acceleration lane. This work was sorely needed as the American Legion Bridge was rusting and may have required more substantial repairs in the future.

SHA does attempt to proactively make these types of repairs (including bridge cleaning and painting, resurfacing, line striping, bridge replacements, new bridge decks, pothole patching) to keep our roads in good shape and to prevent the posting or closures of any of our Bridges.

We will keep Dr. Gridlock up to date on the progress and will issue a press release in advance of the ramp opening to inform our customers, the motorists that use Maryland's roads every day.

Posted by: MD State Highway | July 18, 2007 1:39 PM | Report abuse

Thanks MD State Highway for your insight into this. The effect this project has had on all three area jurisdictions is immense. My neighborhood off Old Dominion Drive in North Arlington became a speedway for all the MD commuters trying to get home from VA without taking the GW Parkway. The GW Parkway took the brunt of the hit from this project. In early June, there were multiple afternoons where northbound GW Parkway traffic delays began before National Airport! All to join the short merge to the inner loop.

Now here is my only question that is not at all clear to me nor other people in my neighborhood: Through any traffic flow study, MD SHA willingly knew that there is a high volume of traffic using the GW Parkway ramp to 495 North (and therefore also using the right transition lane on the ALB). Compare the flow here to entering traffic from Clara Barton Parkway to 495 South where volumes are MUCH lighter. Why couldn't the work zone have been placed on the outer loop of the bridge? I'm not a transportation engineer but it seems like the ripple effect on traffic would have been far less.

Posted by: North Arlington resident | July 18, 2007 2:10 PM | Report abuse

North Arlington, I have the very same question for the poster from MD SHA. I'm guessing that (for some reason) the staging area could not be set-up on the outer loop, presumably the inner loop staging area is more convenient or more practical for some reason unknown to us.

Posted by: xyv1027 | July 18, 2007 2:14 PM | Report abuse

Thanks, MD State Highway for the information. Could you possibly shed light on the reason why the lane closure was placed on the northbound side of the bridge as opposed to the southbound side? In my opinion (I am a traffic engineer), the delays would have been significantly reduced if this was done, since there are significantly more vehicles merging onto the northbound Legion Bridge from the George Washington Memorial Parkway than southbound from the Clara Barton Parkway. This would especially be the case if the staging equipment needed to be closer to the Virginia side of the bridge, since the merge from Clara Barton Parkway would still be fairly long, and a reduced deceleration lane would cause less problems than the reduced merge lane that is there now. Right now, I think a good many people sincerely believe that the northbound side was chosen so traffic backs up into a different state and doesn't affect Maryland residents.

Posted by: Woodley Park | July 18, 2007 2:19 PM | Report abuse

Wow, 3 of us had the same thought at once!

Posted by: Woodley Park | July 18, 2007 2:21 PM | Report abuse

On the outer loop side, there is a continuous lane cloming from Clara Barton onto I-495, which connects with the ramp on the Va side onto the GW Parkway. Any permanent closure of this lane would have more significantly restricted the merge traffic from Clara Barton (would likely have had to have been a stop movement instead of a reduced merge as is the case now on the inner loop) and likely would have caused more sideswipe and angle crashes on I-495.

Neither solution is great - and there are always two sides to any issue. Our engineers made a call that was going to be scrutized under either scenario.

Hopefully, if the weather holds up, we are trying to remove the current ramp reduction right around Labor Day, which should alleviate additional post summertime delays.

Mother nature - we are asking for your help !!

Posted by: MD State Highway | July 18, 2007 2:45 PM | Report abuse

That certainly seems like a reasonable explanation. The distance from the ramp to the bridge is about half as much on the MD side as on the VA side (eyeballing Google Earth), and I know stop signs are not desirable on freeway entrance ramps no matter how light the ramp volumes are.

Unfortunately, many drivers faced with the limited merge and yield signs choose to stop at the beginning of the merge lane to wait for a gap in traffic, which makes it not much better than as if there were a stop sign there!

Posted by: Woodley Park | July 18, 2007 3:03 PM | Report abuse

MD SHA,

Thanks very much for offering an explanation.

Posted by: Lee | July 19, 2007 9:00 AM | Report abuse

Sorry its been a few days since we chatted on this, but I don't understand the rationale provided in MD SHA's most recent post.

"On the outer loop side, there is a continuous lane cloming from Clara Barton onto I-495, which connects with the ramp on the Va side onto the GW Parkway. Any permanent closure of this lane would have more significantly restricted the merge traffic from Clara Barton (would likely have had to have been a stop movement instead of a reduced merge as is the case now on the inner loop) and likely would have caused more sideswipe and angle crashes on I-495."

Yes, that is all fine and true. However, how does this differ at all from the approach on the inner loop? There is a continuous transition lane on both loops of the beltway as it transverses the bridge itself. Isn't the design of the roadway the same on both sides?

Posted by: North Arlington resident | July 20, 2007 4:50 PM | Report abuse

North Arlington - You are 100% correct. The lane configuration is similar on both sides of I-495.

Our engineers use traffic simulation models to predict length of backups/congestion based on traffic volumes, hourly traffic counts, seasonal traffic patterns etc...

SHA's Office of Traffic and Safety, in conjunction with the University of MD T Squared (Technology Transfer) center, years ago developed a state of the art model to predict estimated backups in work zones (both temporary and permanent work zones).

Prior to the beginning of the project, our engineers took traffic counts on both sides of the bridge, looked at the logistics of running the equipment, (including hoses) down below, ran the traffic information through the modeling and consulted with VDOT officials.

When running the models for the inner loop
vs. the outer loop and looking at all of the factors mentioned, it was decided to place the work zone on the inner loop.

As I stated above, neither situation was ideal and backups were an unfortunate part of the solution to create a work zone to keep the workers and motorists as safe as possible, while completing the project just as quick as we could.

Posted by: MD State Highway | July 23, 2007 9:32 AM | Report abuse

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