- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 17, 2005

Drivers on a busy Northern Virginia roadway got a double dose of good news yesterday.

Officials said the Woodrow Wilson Bridge construction project is not only running on schedule, but several lanes of South Washington Street were reopened a month earlier than expected, smoothing the commute on the George Washington Parkway.

“While this is a temporary move for the project, it provides some relief for commuters and the community,” said Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT) project manager Ronaldo Nicholson.

The four-lane section of Washington Street along the Potomac River will remain open for seven months, then revert to three lanes while construction continues on the Capital Beltway expansion. Officials said the extra lane during the summer months helps alleviate traffic on Route 1, which has had more congestion because of bridge-related construction.

About 195,000 motorists use the bridge each day — 120,000 more than planned when it opened in 1961. Daily traffic on the bridge is expected to grow to 300,000 vehicles by 2020.

The $2.43 billion bridge project will create two new spans to replace the aging bridge linking Alexandria to Oxon Hill on Interstate 95. The first new span is slated for completion in May 2006, and the second is expected two years later.

Residents who live almost atop one of the East Coast’s biggest road construction projects complained that officials aren’t fixing all the problems caused by the project.

VDOT purchased several apartment buildings in 2001 to accommodate construction, but now the state agency is working to sell the Hunting Towers back into the private market.

“They’ve made impacts here that they need to mend first,” said Ardith C. Dentzer, a resident of one of the towers. “We’ve been living in a dust bowl for a long time now.”

Miss Dentzer said dust seeps into buildings and car engines, requiring more maintenance. Rows of trees that used to block highway noise have been replaced with new traffic lanes. More noise walls would help, she said.

Project planners said they’ve tried to compensate for the expanded highway with new landscaping, sound barriers and even ball fields nearby.

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