Schedule Changed After Traffic Tie-Ups

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By Steven Ginsberg
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, June 6, 2006

Delays in completing weekend construction near the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge caused a seven-mile traffic backup on the Capital Beltway during yesterday morning's rush hour, leading project managers to bar such work on Sunday nights.

The delays started about 5 a.m., when workers were supposed to have finished placing a steel beam over the highway in time for the rush. But crews had difficulty lining up a connector and didn't finish until 6:30 a.m., causing traffic to quickly overwhelm a single-lane detour around the Beltway, project officials said.

"We're sorry," project spokesman John Undeland said. "We know we messed up commutes for thousands of commuters this morning, and we've taken action to make sure it doesn't happen again."

Undeland said excessive jams lasted until about 7:15 a.m.

The contractor, Corman Construction Inc., will not be allowed to do overnight work on Sundays until it shows that it can finish by 5 a.m., Undeland said. The company and its subcontractor, Interlock, ran into difficulty hanging the steel beams Friday and Saturday nights but were able to finish because they had until 8 a.m. the next days.

"Until we are sure this contractor is able to hit 5 a.m., we're not going to take the chance that we would mess up rush hour like we did this morning," Undeland said.

Corman was fined $50 for the first five minutes of delay and $50 for every minute after for a total of $4,300, Undeland said.

The work was the first involving four weekends of Beltway closings so that 10 425-foot-long steel beams can be placed over the highway for a new interchange at Route 210. The policy change means that work will probably have to extend an additional weekend, said Undeland, adding that three beams were put in place over the weekend.

Traffic delays associated with the work were common over the weekend. The Beltway closings caused traffic to back up for miles on the outer loop, at times extending across the bridge into Virginia, nearly to the Telegraph Road interchange, Undeland said. Inner loop drivers faced two delays last night. The highway was closed for a fatal accident, and when it reopened, motorists jammed into the detour near the bridge, causing more backups.

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