- The Washington Times - Tuesday, July 3, 2001

Half a dozen concerned residents gathered behind a chain-link fence in Jones Point Park in Alexandria yesterday to gauge firsthand the severity of the noise created by construction of the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

Scheduled to start at 9 a.m., the project was delayed as crews pumped rainwater out of the foundation hole. Shortly after noon, the pounding began.

For a minute or two, nobody said anything.

A dozen construction workers craned their necks toward the giant hammer along with residents and Virginia and Maryland transportation officials as it struck, recoiled and struck again. Every two seconds it drove the pile another foot deeper into the ground, causing tremors that could be felt 100 feet away.

Then Teresa Miller, head of the Yates Gardens Civic Association, summed up her reaction.

"It's pretty bad," she said.

Mrs. Miller said planners told her the decibel level of the 100-foot-tall pile driver hammering home the 2-foot-square, 45-foot-long concrete spikes that will form the bridge's foundation would be equivalent to a plane passing overhead. Still, she said, she didn't know what to expect.

"We're very concerned that our neighborhood be protected from the largest federal works project in the Washington area," she said.

During the second phase of construction, 330 piles will be driven into Jones Point Park and 640 pieces of steel pipe will be pounded into the bottom of the Potomac River. Hammering in the park, expected to continue on the Virginia side through November, will be limited to weekdays from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturdays from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m.

"This is a journey that we're going to have to go on as a community," Mrs. Miller said.

The Washington Times reported Saturday that construction of the new bridge and its interchanges and nearby roads is now estimated to cost more than $2.4 billion — $357 million more than budgeted — and some of the work could take until 2011 to complete. The federal government has committed $1.585 billion for building the 12-lane span, which is scheduled to be completed by 2006. Each state has pledged $200 million, and the District pledged $15 million.

Valerie Martino, who has lived half a mile from Jones Point Park on South Lee Street since 1969, watched the pile driver work yesterday for about five minutes. She said the noise gave her a headache.

"This will be pretty unlivable if you're hearing that constantly," she said. She's not sure if she'll continue her daily walks in the park. "I wouldn't want to get any closer to it than I have to."

Across the street from the construction site, in the residential area where Mrs. Martino lives, the noise faded, absorbed by the sound of trucks crossing the bridge and planes on approach to the airport — pretty much as transportation officials said it would.

Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project Manager Gene McCormick wasn't surprised.

"We've worked extremely well with the neighborhoods through the design process and into the construction process," he said. He pointed out that the crane-mounted, hydraulic pile driver used yesterday was designed to work more quietly than other pile-driving hammers.

"It's simply not possible to build a project of this size without some impact, so we try to do it in a way that mitigates the disruption," said Maryland Department of Transportation Secretary John D. Porcari.

Sean Fitzpatrick, who was walking his dog Seamus in the park when the pounding began, said that he heard the pile driver, but that a passing helicopter made more noise."For the person who wants to come and wants to walk here, I don't think it's going to affect them that much," he said.

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