Beltway Delays in Va. for Weekend Likely as New Span Opening Nears

By Eric M. Weiss
Washington Post Staff Writer
Thursday, May 8, 2008

This weekend could bring significant delays for drivers crossing the Woodrow Wilson Bridge as project officials shift lanes on the Capital Beltway's outer loop in preparation for the opening of the bridge's second signature span at the end of the month.

Motorists are being warned to avoid the outer loop between Springfield and the Wilson Bridge.

"If you don't have to come to this part of the Beltway, don't," said Ronaldo T. "Nick" Nicholson of the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Project managers are hoping to reduce traffic over the weekend by 50 to 70 percent to allow workers to lay about 3,000 tons of asphalt and relocate the three lanes of the outer loop about 65 feet to the south, Nicholson said.

The work is needed to prepare for the bridge's opening. The new span will be dedicated May 15, with regional leaders celebrating the achievement. Sen. John W. Warner (R-Va.), who is retiring, will symbolically tighten a final bolt. The $2.4 billion project's next milestone will occur the weekend of May 30, when outer and inner loop traffic is scheduled to be switched to the new span.

At 9 p.m. tomorrow, outer loop traffic on the Virginia side of the bridge will be reduced to one lane. All ramps from U.S. Route 1 to and from the outer loop will be detoured. The ramp from Telegraph Road to the outer loop also will be detoured.

Beginning early Saturday, traffic heading north on Interstate 95 will be detoured onto the Beltway's inner loop, sending vehicles around the Beltway to the west and across the American Legion Bridge.

Planners hope that by midday Saturday they will be able to open two lanes for outer-loop traffic as well as ramps from Route 1 and Telegraph Road.

By Sunday, paving and striping work should be completed, and the third lane on the outer loop will be open to traffic in its new alignment, officials said.

Traffic on the inner loop from Maryland will not be affected.

Russ Fuhrman, executive project manager, said the new alignment will be permanent, and it will be straighter and wider than the current route, which has twists and turns to accommodate construction.

Nicholson said some drivers might be confused because part of the new route has been used as part of the Route 1 exit. New signs will alert drivers that the lanes will take them over the bridge to Maryland.

Although the span opening is a milestone, relief by way of more lanes will not come until later this year, when express lanes open on both spans as work on the Beltway progresses from the Maryland Route 210 interchange to Route 1 in Virginia.

The bridge project, one of the largest infrastructure projects in the country, is about 80 percent complete. The Telegraph Road interchange project, which is expected to be finished by 2013, is the last major component.

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