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Wilson Bridge Delays This Weekend

Delays and detours at the Wilson Bridge this weekend will remind drivers of what happened before the first new span opened in the summer of 2006.

As traffic planners prepare to open the second span, they are dusting off their '06 message: Expect serious delays while construction crews set up Capital Beltway lanes to align with the new bridge.

Incredibly, people up and down the East Coast got the word two years ago, and most did the smart thing by dodging Washington or just staying home.

I hope history repeats itself this weekend, the first of two this month for the Beltway reconfiguration.

The trouble zone for drivers will stretch along the outer loop between the Springfield Interchange and the bridge. Go west around the Beltway or up I-395 to avoid the work area.

Here's the plan.

9 p.m. Friday
-- The outer loop will be reduced to one lane between the Springfield Interchange and the bridge.
-- All four ramps at Route 1 to and from the outer loop will be closed and traffic detoured.
-- The ramp from northbound Telegraph Road to the outer loop will be closed and detours imposed.

Early Saturday
-- The Springfield Interchange ramp from northbound I-95 to the outer loop will close temporarily to divert traffic from the work zone.
-- Eastbound traffic will be diverted west toward the American Legion Bridge. (It's about the same mileage around the Beltway to reconnect with northbound I-95 north of Washington.)
-- The ramp will reopen when the traffic volume eases, but it could be 10 hours or more.

Mid-Day Saturday
-- A second lane on the outer loop will reopen.
-- The two open lanes will be shifted to the new Beltway alignment, about 65 feet south of the old one.
-- All ramps at Route 1 to and from the outer loop and the Telegraph Road North ramp to the outer loop will reopen.

Sunday
-- The third outer loop lane will reopen on the new alignment, completing the shift of the outer loop to the new configuration.

Monday
Beltway commuters heading toward the Wilson Bridge will encounter the new alignment for the first time. Some drivers might get confused, so watch for slow traffic. The most likely source of confusion is that drivers on the new alignment could mistakenly think they're heading for the Route 1 exit ramp and slow down or move left quickly.

End of May
The second span is scheduled to open on the last weekend of the month, but first the inner loop will have to be realigned. So that's another weekend of major traffic delays.

By Robert Thomson  |  May 8, 2008; 6:00 AM ET
Categories:  Construction  
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