TRANSPORTATION

Douglass Bridge Closure Marks The Start of Construction Season

The northbound lanes of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge will be closed for the weekend starting at 10 a.m. tomorrow. Numerous shutdowns will be needed to remake the approach to South Capitol Street.
The northbound lanes of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge will be closed for the weekend starting at 10 a.m. tomorrow. Numerous shutdowns will be needed to remake the approach to South Capitol Street. (By Mark Gail -- The Washington Post)

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By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, January 25, 2007

The northbound lanes of the Frederick Douglass Memorial Bridge will be closed this weekend starting at 10 a.m. tomorrow, the first of numerous shutdowns over the next several months that are expected to cause significant traffic delays.

The closures are needed to remake the aging South Capitol Street bridge, which serves as a major commuter link over the Anacostia River and will provide critical access to a new baseball stadium and other developments in the rapidly changing area.

Inbound bridge drivers will be directed to the northbound lanes of Interstate 295 and the 11th Street Bridge.

"If you're coming into the District, think ahead and plan an alternate route," said Erik Linden, spokesman for the District Department of Transportation.

The Douglass bridge is one of many throughout the region where construction is causing delays.

The inner loop of the Capital Beltway on the Maryland side of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge will be closed at 11 a.m. today for 20 minutes for drawbridge work. Bridge officials warned of backups as long as three miles.

The $27 million Douglass bridge project will repair the span and lower it to be level with and accessible to surrounding streets, such as Potomac Avenue, which now runs under the bridge. A traffic circle will be built at Potomac and South Capitol, at the base of the bridge.

Altering the bridge will allow traffic to turn onto Potomac for access to the stadium being built for the Washington Nationals, a new office building for the U.S. Department of Transportation and other developments. The remade span will also help transform the disconnected area into a more livable and walkable community. Instead of exiting the stadium and facing the underside of a hulking bridge, for instance, planners want baseball fans to be able to stroll along a pedestrian-friendly street.

The rest of South Capitol will also get its own extreme makeover: The Jersey barriers in the middle of the roadway will be replaced with rows of trees to create a boulevard. The entire project is scheduled to be finished by April 2008, in time for the stadium's opening.

"The world is coming in," said Kathleen Linehan Penney, manager of the bridge project. "And if we can get the construction in beforehand, we'll be in better shape."

The northbound bridge lanes will close at 10 a.m. tomorrow and reopen by 4 a.m. Monday. The same schedule will apply on the weekends of Jan. 26, Feb. 9, March 9, March 23, April 13 and April 20.

The southbound lanes are scheduled to be closed some weekends in May and June as well.

During the closures, workers will replace 19 bridge expansion joints, which allow the bridge to flex during temperature changes. District officials said joint replacements require extended periods of uninterrupted work so existing joints can be removed from the concrete bridge deck, repairs can be made and new joints and concrete can be installed. Workers will also use the closures to repair and paint steelwork under the bridge.

The most disruptive closures are planned for summer, when the entire bridge, which carries 77,000 vehicles a day, will be closed for all of July and possibly August. Workers will cut 600 feet off the end of the bridge and lower the roadway by roughly 20 feet so it is level with Potomac Avenue.


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