- The Washington Times - Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Transportation officials reopened Kenilworth Avenue late yesterday after saying that a morning rush-hour accident that damaged the Eastern Avenue overpass likely would close the road until tomorrow.

“It’s opening much sooner than we [expected] because we found that the damage isn’t as extensive as we thought,” said Bill Rice, a spokesman for the District’s Department of Transportation.

The accident occurred at about 6:30 a.m. when a backhoe being towed southbound on a trailer by a dump truck clipped the north side of the Eastern Avenue bridge, which also was scheduled to reopen last night, the Metropolitan Police Department said.

David Ballantine, 43, of Westminster, Md., was driving the truck belonging to Sykesville, Md.-based Asher Construction Inc. He was issued a citation for colliding with a fixed object, police said.

The crash caused miles of morning and evening backups on Kenilworth Avenue, which also is known as D.C. 295 and brings motorists from the Baltimore-Washington Parkway into Northeast. The road handles about 100,000 vehicles a day, the District reports.

The crash also caused widespread backups on other roads into the city, from red-light-heavy Rhode Island and Minnesota avenues to the more-commercial New York Avenue, which brings vehicles into downtown and to the numerous federal office buildings.

Before changing their plans yesterday evening, transportation officials had added other streets, including Bladensburg and Benning roads, to their list of alternative routes.

Officials had feared that the accident caused structural damage to the bridge, which sustained damage to a main support beam and cracks throughout its concrete supports.

Four cars were damaged by falling concrete, but no injuries were reported.

Authorities closed Kenilworth Avenue for about 30 minutes after the truck accident, then reopened the northbound lane at about 7 a.m. for the remainder of the morning rush hour. Both lanes were closed again at 11:10 a.m. so authorities could investigate the damage and start repairs.

During the closure, traffic was diverted to a service road, then back onto Kenilworth Avenue near Nash Street Northeast.

Drivers were not allowed to enter Kenilworth Avenue from the parkway or from Route 50.

Eastern Avenue is the border for the District and Prince George’s County.

City police officers directed traffic throughout much of the day. Portable message signs in Maryland on Interstate 95, the parkway and Route 50 east of the Capital Beltway warned motorists about the closures and delays.

The 30-year-old bridge and has a clearance of 14 feet, 2 inches. Although the clearance is 2 inches above federal requirement, it is one of the lowest in the area, city officials said. The bridge had been hit at least six other times by over-height vehicles, but had never had this type of damage, said John Deatrick, the city transportation department’s chief engineer.

“This hit seems to be much worse than past ones because this one actually pulled the reinforcing steel out of the concrete,” he said. “The driver was in the high-speed lane” at the time of the accident, “so that should give us some hints that he had to be doing at least the speed limit.”

The District does not plan to replace the bridge later this year when $20 million in funds for the project become available, Mr. Deatrick said.

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