- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 16, 2006

The major construction work on the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge was completed 29 hours ahead of schedule, and no delays are expected for the commute this morning.

“We were really thrilled that it all went without incident,” Colleen Coghlan, a Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project spokeswoman, said yesterday. “All traffic went on ahead of schedule.”

The road work this past weekend shifted traffic from the Capital Beltway’s Inner Loop onto a new bridge span and ended service for the original bridge, which was built in 1961 but quickly became obsolete because it could not accommodate the region’s growing population.

An estimated 73 billion vehicles crossed the bridge, designed to carry about one-third of the 200,000 vehicles it was carrying daily.

Motorists using the Beltway’s Inner and Outer loops to cross the Potomac River between Maryland and Virginia will share the new span for the next two years, until work on a second new span is completed. The new bridge will have 12 lanes when finished. The entire bridge-and-roads project is estimated to cost $2.4 billion and is to be completed by 2011.

The work this weekend began Friday night and was scheduled to end as late as 5 a.m. today.

The worst problems occurred midday Saturday, when backups were about 2 miles long and delays lasted for about 90 minutes.

Still, they were far less than the 14-mile and three-hour delays predicted.

The work was also completed ahead of schedule, despite 90-degree temperatures.

The last car officially crossed the old bridge Saturday at 2:28 p.m.

The driver was Paul Chang of Mechanicsville, Va., who drove a Toyota Camry. He and the four motorists in front of him received specially minted coins commemorating the new bridge.

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