Start Planning Now For Potomac Bridge Congestion
We need to talk more about this 14th Street Bridge project and how you can deal with it.
In one sense, it doesn't sound like a high-impact program. How bad can this be? It's still four lanes open at rush. They're not shutting the entire roadway, as the District did during the summer of 2007 when it made over the Douglass Bridge at South Capitol Street. Plus, vacation season is coming on, and traffic should lighten.
The best visual representation of why drivers need to focus on this project appears on the District's new Web page for bridge drivers. Look at the overview map, showing the phases of the project and their impact on the lanes. Click through the phases and see what happens to the roadway. Suddenly, it becomes much more difficult to imagine a smooth trip on the northbound span, or south of it.
Joan Morris, spokeswoman for the Virginia Department of Transportation, was thinking of the 20-mile backup on I-95/395 after the April 23 accident in the Third Street Tunnel when she told me yesterday that her department will need to carefully monitor what's happening at the 14th Street Bridge and south of it.
There's no date announced yet for the start of the work and the first phase of lane shifts, other than that it will happen in the next couple of weeks. But history tells us that the first few weeks are likely to be difficult, as drivers confront the construction, see what they're up against and look for ways of dealing with it. Only some of this work is going to occur during the really heavy vacation season of July and August.
While you're looking at the project's Web page, take the opportunity to sign up for the e-mail alerts about the construction. Another source of information will be the DDOT Twitter page 14thStBrdgGuru. There's also going to be a Facebook page. (Many transportation agencies are reaching out to travelers in these new ways.)
The bottom line for bridge users: Southbound, you're fine. HOV, you're fine. Northbound, not so much. That's the deck that must be made over in this project.
DDOT made these suggestions: Carpool, take VRE, Metro or a commuter bus, adjust your work schedule, telecommute, consider an alternative route.
Several good resources for online help in organizing your local travels: Commuter Connections and CommuterPage.com. We'll also be using the resources of our site, including Get There and the Traffic page, to get and share information about the delays and what you can do about them.
For alternatives, DDOT suggested the Wilson Bridge, a much improved passage now that the two new spans are open. But there's the bottleneck at Telegraph Road on the outer loop to deal with. Plus, many drivers won't want to go that far out of their way if they can find another option, but what's realistic?
To get in and out of DC across the Potomac, there are the Key, Roosevelt and Memorial Bridges to the northwest of the 14th Street Bridge. But after that, it's all the way down to the Wilson Bridge. And then if you're not bound for the District, if you're going from Northern Virginia to Southern Maryland, for example, what options do you have, besides a Beltway trip?
May 1, 2009; 7:43 AM ET
Categories: Congestion , Construction , Driving
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