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Ceremony Ends at Wilson Bridge

The ceremony dedicating the second new span of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge has ended, after engaging more of the region's attention than planners intended.

The traffic jams on the bridge's Beltway approaches, which stretched for miles this morning, have eased. (Get updates and camera views on our traffic page.)

During the ceremony, Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) had the honor of turning the final bolt into place. Other federal and local officials who helped get us this far look on. Some of the construction workers who built the two new spans also attended the ceremony marking this landmark in the region's history.

Looking at some of our current problems -- the Dulles rail financing, or Virginia's struggle to finance road and transit programs -- with the perspective of the bridge project's history gives some reasons for hope about the future.

Here's a chronology of the bridge's difficult birth, as it appeared in Post stories:

June 30, 1999: A Clinton administration plan to boost by $600 million the federal share of the cost of replacing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge struck an obstacle yesterday, as a key House Transportation subcommittee chairman announced his opposition.

July 21, 1999: "It's going to take some dialogue and understanding," said Rep. Thomas M. Davis III (R-Va.), a chief backer of the spending plan, ... "It's something you really have to make the case for."

May 25, 2000: Federal officials projected this month that a new Woodrow Wilson Bridge could cost $2.5 billion, boosting the price tag by half a billion dollars and further dimming the chances that construction can begin this year.

July 1, 2000: The U.S. Senate approved yesterday a provision that would allow construction on a new Woodrow Wilson Bridge to begin on schedule this fall, creating an exception to a law that requires full funding for the project to be in place first.

The provision, proposed by Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.) as an amendment to a military appropriations bill, passed by a voice vote. ... The House passed the measure Thursday night.

July 27, 2000: A political stalemate over replacing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge was broken yesterday, less than a month before the first critical deadline, when Maryland Gov. Parris N. Glendening ordered that work begin this fall despite a shortfall of at least $600 million.

Sept. 23, 2000: Virginia Gov. James S. Gilmore III (R) provoked a new row with his Maryland counterpart yesterday by urging that each state cover the cost overruns on its respective share of rebuilding the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

A spokesman for Gov. Parris N. Glendening (D) instantly rejected the proposal as "bogus," saying it would be unfair because the majority of the project has been assigned by the federal government to Maryland.

Dec. 14, 2001: The only contractor to bid on building the two spans of the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge said yesterday that the job would cost almost $860 million -- 75 percent more than the highest earlier estimates.

Maryland engineers in charge of the project said yesterday that they have no choice but to either redesign the bridge or repeat their request for bids, hoping to attract competitors.

Nov. 8, 2002: The lowest bid to build the draw spans of the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge came in $18 million over engineers' estimates yesterday, but relieved Maryland officials declared that was close enough to assure they could continue the project.

. . . Construction on the draw spans is scheduled to begin this spring. The first six-lane span is scheduled to be completed by 2006, with the second by 2008.

By Robert Thomson  |  May 15, 2008; 1:22 PM ET
Categories:  Wilson Bridge  
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