- The Washington Times - Monday, August 15, 2005

After years of detours and frustrating delays, officials are promising the next few months will offer relief to motorists who use the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

“A number of ramps are going to be opening this fall, which will start loosening up that legendary Wilson Bridge gridlock,” John Undeland, a spokesman for the Wilson Bridge Project, said yesterday.

The access ramps and interchanges will be phased in as work is completed on a dozen major contracts. The first of two new spans will open next spring, with the other to follow in 2008.

“The process of opening those ramps is going to require more closures, but once they’re open, the permanent condition will be freer-flowing traffic,” Mr. Undeland said.

Originally built to handle 75,000 vehicles per day in 1961, the bridge now carries about 195,000 each day. For more than a decade, congestion on bridge approaches has persisted for at least seven hours a day.

With hundreds of workers and fleets of barges, cranes and construction equipment involved, officials said the $2.44 billion project is on schedule and on budget.

Crews worked for nearly 50 hours over the weekend paving approaches to four temporary lanes on the Inner Loop of the Capital Beltway in Maryland. Those will move traffic across the existing bridge until the first new span is completed. The task was far more extensive than similar work last month on the Outer Loop.

“Fifty-five hundred tons of asphalt had to be laid down,” Mr. Undeland said. That was four times the amount used in Virginia.

There were also two crews working to complete the work within the 57-hour allotted period. They finished seven hours early.

Motorists faced delays of more than two hours moving through the three-mile Maryland construction zone. There was 13 percent more traffic volume without the mandatory detour made possible by alternate routes available during the Virginia work.

The project is being financed through a combination of federal and state funds.

Virginia is spending $515 million; Maryland is contributing $305 million; and the federal government is providing $1.6 billion.

The District is spending $16 million for work on the Beltway’s exchange with Interstate 295, also known as the Anacostia Freeway.

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