Drivers on the Virginia side of the Capital Beltway face a major challenge this weekend, and congestion on the outer loop is likely to be more extensive than usual until the end of July. The result, however, will be the uncorking of the bottleneck that restricted traffic to three lanes approaching the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.
First the pain: In one of the last phases of the Wilson Bridge reconstruction project, the THRU/LOCAL lane split on the Beltway’s outer loop is being shifted this weekend to just west of the Eisenhower Connector, after the Van Dorn Street exit.
From 9 p.m. Friday until 5 a.m. Monday, the outer loop THRU lanes will be closed. All outer loop traffic will be routed onto a single LOCAL lane for the entire weekend.
To ease congestion during peak travel hours, the ramp from I-95 North to the outer loop at the Springfield interchange will be closed between 7 a.m. and 10 p.m. Saturday and Sunday. All northbound I-95 traffic will be routed onto the inner loop, toward Tysons Corner and the American Legion Bridge.
Drivers also could continue onto I-395 North, which leads to the 14th Street Bridge and the Southeast-Southwest Freeway in the District.
But the weekend work to move the split just sets up the rest of the lane-paving project.
From Monday until July 30, two outer loop THRU lanes will be open in their final configuration, but only one LOCAL lane will be open from the split to just past Telegraph Road.
Because the THRU/LOCAL split will be farther west as of Monday, drivers will need to pick their lanes earlier. This also is likely to cause extra congestion.
Only those who need to access Telegraph Road, Route 1 or I-295/National Harbor should use the single LOCAL lane to the right. The ramp from the Eisenhower Connector to the outer loop will be closed until July 30.
Then, if the schedule holds, the paving will be done and the widened outer loop will be open all the way to the Wilson Bridge.