- The Washington Times - Wednesday, May 19, 2004

A new ramp over the Springfield Interchange that allows Inner Loop traffic on the Capital Beltway to bypass the Mixing Bowl passed its first rush-hour test with flying colors yesterday.

“It flowed nice and smoothly onto the bridge and off the bridge,” said Steve Titunik, communications director for the Mixing Bowl project, which began in 1999 and is expected to finish in 2007 at a total cost of just under $700 million.

“We’re quite pleased that it’s moving along so well. People have been waiting for it and I think they’re prepared to handle it,” Mr. Titunik said. “It’s quite interesting to see it, traffic that used to hug that right lane trying to get off and onto 95, pretty much separated. The intent of the entire traffic is to split local and long-distance traffic.”

The new overpass opened around 2:45 p.m. yesterday and carried traffic from the Inner Loop of the Capital Beltway onto southbound Interstate 95, effectively carrying cars over the Springfield Interchange. After passing Van Dorn Street, drivers heading toward Richmond must keep left on the Inner Loop to use the new ramp.

The overpass is a mile long. It cost $31 million, and is 100 feet high. Mr. Titunik said the feeling of climbing the ramp is similar to the climb up a roller coaster’s big hill.

“You have to do some climbing, and as you’re driving straight ahead, you are looking at the sky,” he said. “There are people who may find the bridge hard to get used to, but as long as they’re not looking directly over and down, I don’t think they’ll be concerned.”

More than 430,000 cars pass through the Mixing Bowl each day, making it one of the busiest interchanges in the country. When the project was started in 1999, traffic volume was around 399,000 vehicles.

“There’s been just a tremendous amount of growth in this entire region,” Mr. Titunik said.

A second lane will open tomorrow on the existing exit ramp off the Outer Loop onto I-95 southbound.

The existing ramp onto I-95 from the Inner Loop will remain open for a few weeks, until drivers become adjusted to having to exit on the left side instead of the right side.

“The first few days, people are just getting use to it and you could have people who are just driving on autopilot who don’t see the signs,” said Joan Morris, VDOT spokeswoman. “For those drivers, we’ll have the existing structure in place for a few more weeks.”

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