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DC To Begin Lengthy Rehab of 14th Street Bridges

Mayor Adrian M. Fenty announced this morning that the District will begin almost immediately to rehabilitate the 14th Street Bridges over the Potomac, launching a two-year project that will repair decay but slow travel for many of the 200,000 vehicles that cross them each day.

"What else can you do?" Fenty said in assessing the need for the $27 million project and its impact on drivers.

Gabe Klein, director of the District Department of Transportation, and city engineers recommended that drivers consider these options:
* Carpool. None of the work takes place on the HOV bridge.
* Take transit. They recommended VRE or Metrorail.
* Adjust work schedules. Rush hours are likely to be more difficult than usual.
* Find an alternative route. Officials note that the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge, six miles away, is relatively free of congestion, though there is a continuing bottleneck on the outer loop before Telegraph Road. (Commuters, what do you see as your best alternative?)

The work will start early in May. The key impact for drivers will occur on the northbound span over the next year. That's where the resurfacing must be done. While four lanes will be open at peak periods, there will be various changes in traffic patterns, lanes will be narrowed, shoulders eliminated and the merge from the northbound George Washington Parkway will be shortened.

This summer, the city plans to launch an even bigger highway program: Construction of a new set of 11th Street Bridges across the Anacostia River, to be completed in 2013.
With these twin projects, linked by three miles of the Southeast-Southwest Freeway, the city will become fully involved in a rapidly developing period of road construction across the Washington region.

In Virginia, drivers see hillsides cleared and piers rising for what will become four new lanes on the Capital Beltway. They continue to endure the traffic squeeze required for completion of the Beltway's Telegraph Road interchange, last major phase of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project.

To the south, Interstate 95 is about to widen out to four lanes each way along the six miles between Route 123 and the Fairfax County Parkway.

Less visible to motorists but at least as dramatic is the rapid pace of construction along the Montgomery County corridor of Maryland's Intercounty Connector, the region's first major new highway in a generation.

Many commuters who use the 14th Street Bridges continue north on 14th Street and fan out across the federal center. But many who use one set of the D.C. bridges also use the other as they travel between their homes east of the Anacostia and job centers, such as the Pentagon, across the Potomac in Northern Virginia.

Contrasting Consequences
Most road projects involve construction pain endured for the sake of longterm gain in travel time and safety. But the balance of pain and gain on these bridge projects looks quite different.

The $300 million 11th Street Bridges project will yield a completely new set of bridges designed to purge the original sin of failing to link drivers seamlessly with the Anacostia Freeway. (These bridges and freeways, fragments of a long-buried plan for a capital road network, were stitched together with the knitting skill of Dr. Frankenstein.)

New spans along the Anacostia will be built alongside old ones, then old spans will be torn down in a construction style reminiscent of the Wilson Bridge project, so that drivers will have the same number of open lanes during construction.

While the 14th Street Bridges are being fixed, drives will have the same number of lanes available now, but the lanes will shift periodically. The bridge complex already is one of the region's major choke points, so any change in the lane configuration is likely to result in extensive and long-lasting slowdowns.

When the pain has passed away, bridge drivers will be left with the same ride they have now, only smoother. The rehabilitated bridges won't have any more lanes and won't take travelers anywhere they can't go now.

Much of the rehabilitation work will take place under the northbound and southbound spans. It will have little impact on drivers, other than preserving the bridge for them. The southbound bridge will be repainted and repairs will be made. Also, structural steel and masonry will be repaired. On the northbound bridge, the asphalt deck will be replaced, and structural repairs will be made.The bridge operator's house will be refurbished.

By Robert Thomson  |  April 30, 2009; 11:39 AM ET
Categories:  Construction , Driving  | Tags: 14th Street Bridge  
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Comments

The path on the southbound span is an important route for the many cyclists commuting into DC from the Mt. Vernon trail. Any word on whether or not they'll be occupying the path for staging?

Posted by: TheBoreaucrat | April 30, 2009 1:02 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: TheBoreaucrat, DC says the bridge bike and pedestrian path will remain open except for temporary closures during cleaning and painting of the bridge railing. The MV Trail underneath the bridge will remain open except for temp closures from 10 p.m. to 4 a.m.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | April 30, 2009 1:09 PM | Report abuse

What can be done? Make another Metro tunnel a priority Mr. Fenty. You've spent too much time in Dubai and not enough commuting.

Posted by: anarcho-liberal-tarian | April 30, 2009 1:25 PM | Report abuse

"The bridge operator's house will be refurbished."

Why? There is no more bridge operator.

Posted by: thetan | April 30, 2009 1:36 PM | Report abuse

11th Street -- Does this mean that southbound 295 will finally be linked directly to 395?

Posted by: airsix | April 30, 2009 1:55 PM | Report abuse

From Dr. Gridlock: airsix, yes, it does.
thetan, They're going do decorate the windows. It's an art project. The stuff covering them now, it's like plywood, right? Looks kind of crummy. You should have a nicer view while you're sitting there in traffic.

Posted by: rtthomson1 | April 30, 2009 9:37 PM | Report abuse

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