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Wilson Bridge Getting More Lanes

southbound thru lanes.jpg
Thru lanes on bridge ready to open over two weekends this month. (Thomson)

The Capital Beltway near the Wilson Bridge is the place not to be this weekend and next, as the construction project's managers work on opening the new Thru lanes. Once that's done, it will be up to drivers to figure out which lanes are right for them.

So we have two concerns about traffic congestion. First, will drivers pay attention to the warnings going out this week and next and keep away from the work zones? Then once the new lanes are open, will bottlenecks occur around the splits and the merges?

The Work Zones
During the many years of bridge construction, we've been through this weekend drill several times, and this round is probably the last.

This weekend, workers will put down the white stripes and put up the signs that will lead drivers onto the new lanes of the outer loop. If that comes off on schedule, the new lanes will be open by Monday morning, and maybe sooner. Then they'll repeat the process on the inner loop the following weekend.

But this work has the potential to create serious traffic backups both weekends. The outer loop portion on the first weekend tends to be the easier one to handle. But that lulls some drivers into thinking things will be okay the next weekend. Plus, it's more difficult to manage traffic on that portion of the inner loop.

These are the basics.
9 p.m. Friday to about 7 p.m. Sunday: The outer loop will be reduced from three lanes to one from Van Dorn Street in Virginia through Route 210 in Maryland. At Springfield, Interstate 95 North access will be blocked off on Saturday morning. Traffic will be detoured west around the Beltway toward the American Legion Bridge. (For northbound long-distance drivers, this shouldn't be a problem, since it's about the same mileage around either side of the Beltway.)

11 p.m. Friday to about 10 p.m. Sunday: Inner loop lanes will be reduced from three lanes to one from east of Route 210 in Maryland through the Eisenhower Avenue Connector in Virginia.

Ramps to the inner loop from I-295 South and from National Harbor will be closed. Ramps from the inner loop to Church Street and Route 1 in Alexandria also will be closed.

If it turns out to be too cold or wet to put down the stripes, they'll have to postpone the work for a weekend. But if things go on schedule, then the concern is how quickly drivers will make their lane choices when they confront the split and how good they'll be about merging on the other side.

Lane Decisions
If you want to work on your choice ahead of time, look at this Lane Decider chart on the bridge project Web site.

We'll look at this more closing on The Post Commuter page this Sunday. On the one hand, these aren't like the I-270 Express and Local lanes in that the bridge's Thru and Local lanes don't allow traffic to periodically move back and forth. On the other hand, the bridge segments aren't that long. So it's not like you pick the outer loop Thru lanes and the next stop is Baltimore. That's why it's a good idea to check the Lane Decider.

Here's the sign you'll see on the outer loop when the work is done this weekend.

thur lane sign (2).jpg

By Robert Thomson  |  December 4, 2008; 7:39 AM ET
Categories:  Advisories , Congestion , Construction  
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