- The Washington Times - Thursday, June 8, 2006

Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge officials are warning of major backups this weekend as crews work to merge traffic from the Capital Beltway onto the bridge’s newly completed Outer Loop span.

“We’re really urging people to stay away this weekend,” bridge project spokesman John Undeland said. “If they can avoid the area, they’ll be doing themselves and us a favor.”

Beginning today at 8 p.m., officials will be reducing the Outer Loop to a single lane for up to four miles between the Route 210 interchange and the Route 1 interchange.

Several ramps will be closed and detoured in the area as well, including the ramp from Route 1 to the Outer Loop in Virginia, ramps from the Outer Loop to Interstate 295 north and Route 210 south, and the ramp from I-295 South to the Outer Loop.

Motorists will be detoured to the Telegraph Road interchange in Virginia and to the Route 210 and Route 414 interchanges in Maryland.

The Springfield Interchange ramp from I-95 north also will be closed, and local traffic will be directed toward I-395 and the 14th Street Bridge.

The closures are necessary to allow workers to mill down banked lanes on the Beltway about 30 inches and then pave connections from the Beltway to the new bridge alignment.

By midway through the weekend, officials aim to have one lane of I-95 north shifted onto the new bridge.

Mr. Undeland said if about 60 percent of normal traffic avoids the area, backups will stretch about four miles and delays will peak at one hour.

“If we get 50 percent diversion, we’re looking at four hours and 14-mile backups,” he said. “And then it goes south from there.”

The reduction to a single lane on the Outer Loop and the Route 1 ramp closure could last until as late as 5 a.m. Monday, when all three lanes on the Outer Loop will be traveling on the new bridge. The ramps in Maryland will reopen midday tomorrow.

Traffic on the Inner Loop is scheduled to be transferred to the new bridge span the weekend of July 14.

Separate work on the new Route 210 interchange also will affect traffic this weekend.

All lanes on the Inner and Outer Loops of the Beltway will be closed from 10 p.m. tomorrow until 8 a.m. Sunday at the interchange to allow workers to lift giant beams over the highway.

The opening of the new northbound span completes the first phase of the $2.4 billion bridge project, which is meant to ease one of the worst bottlenecks on the East Coast.

Construction is under way on the southbound span, and is expected to be completed in two years.

Each span of the new bridge will have six lanes, doubling the capacity of the existing bridge, which was built to carry 75,000 vehicles a day but now carries about 200,000.

The northbound span will carry two-way traffic until the southbound span is completed.

This article is based in part on wire service reports.

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