Project begins to replace Eastern Avenue bridge

By Ashley Halsey III
Washington Post Staff Writer
Wednesday, November 11, 2009

The Eastern Avenue bridge, too old and so low that it gets whacked by tall trucks, is about to be demolished and replaced, a year-long job that will force 21,800 daily drivers to find another route over Kenilworth Avenue.

The project, funded by $10.4 million in federal stimulus money, is scheduled to begin this month.

The bridge has been a too-short player in a tall-truck world, resulting in many a crunching encounter that have caused backups to radiate through adjoining streets and highways.

One of the most memorable occurred four years ago, when a backhoe atop a flatbed trailer -- total height 15 feet -- rammed into the bridge, which has a clearance of 14 feet. The only things hurt were the bridge and the schedules of thousands of drivers caught in the ensuing traffic.

The new bridge will have a 16-foot clearance.

Big portions of the bridge will be precast, allowing them to be dropped into place and reducing the time to complete the project from two years to one.

"We're starting on those precasts before we demolish the old bridge," said John Lisle, spokesman for the D.C. Transportation Department. "That will save us lots of time."

Service roads adjacent to Kenilworth Avenue will remain open while construction is underway, except for a short period.

Lisle said the old bridge will not be demolished until late December or early next year.

"As we get closer to the actual start of this, we'll send out detailed detour directions," Lisle said.

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