- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 31, 2005

Two cranes lifted a 170-ton steel girder into place on special concrete pillars yesterday, the latest addition to the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

The girder is one of eight that are key to the construction of half of the new 12-lane bridge. The Outer Loop span is expected to be completed by mid-2006; the Inner Loop span is expected to be done by mid-2008.

“We’re on schedule,” said John Undeland, a spokesman for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project. He said the overall road project is expected to be completed by 2011.

Each span will carry six lanes of traffic.

Chris Erb, a general engineering consultant for the bridge project, said the Wilson Bridge is one of the most complex crossings in the world. He described it as “a balanced cantilever, temporary cable stop, pre-cast, post tensioned segmental bridge.”

The Wilson Bridge project also is the second largest highway construction project on the East Coast and the third largest in the U.S. In Boston, tunnels are being constructed under the city for interstate highways. In San Francisco, a major overhaul of the Bay Bridge is under way.

At a cost of $826 million, the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge is designed to carry at least 295,000 vehicles daily over the Potomac River between Prince George’s County and Alexandria. The current bridge, which carries about 195,000 vehicles a day, will be torn down after the new Outer Loop span is completed.

The new bridge is a portion of the total 71/2-mile road and bridge project that includes approaching highways of Route 1 and Telegraph Road in Northern Virginia and Interstate 295 and Indian Head Highway in Maryland.

The cost of the total road and bridge project is estimated at $2.43 billion.

The girder installed yesterday is a key part of the new draw bridge, which will open about 60 times each year for tall vessels. The current drawbridge is lower and opens about 250 times a year.

The new girders are precisely balanced so rotating cogs in the center will raise the span with the smallest amount of power. “It’s a very robust bridge,” Mr. Erb said.

The tallest ship known to exist in the world will be able get through the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge, said Michelle Holland, a spokeswoman for the project.

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