Tysons commuters to 'bite the traffic bullet' with closures, bridge demolition

By Derek Kravitz
Washington Post Staff Writer
Monday, October 11, 2010; 9:08 PM

A collection of road closures, new traffic lights, lane shifts and the demolition of the Westpark Bridge at the Capital Beltway in Tysons Corner means one thing for already traffic-clogged commuters: Expect more delays.

The hardest-hit will be those who take Chain Bridge Road south toward Tysons; northbound Chain Bridge drivers heading to McLean; and commuters who exit the Beltway at Chain Bridge in Tysons. These drivers likely will add at least 20 minutes to their commutes in the next week.

"We know that it's not a comfortable change, especially when it's happening at a busy interchange at Virginia's major shopping and workplace destination," said Steven M. Titunik, spokesman for the Virginia Department of Transportation megaprojects. "It's a tough situation, but to get to the future sometimes you have to go through the pain and bite the traffic bullet."

Construction is expected to begin Tuesday night, when all four northbound lanes of the Beltway are shifted to the left over Chain Bridge Road, a change that is expected to last for 18 to 24 months as crews continue to build 14 miles of high-occupancy toll, or HOT, lanes between the Springfield interchange and the Dulles Toll Road.

The ramp from Chain Bridge Road northbound to the Beltway also will be closed for up to two years, forcing motorists to use a new, left-turn traffic signal just before the Capital One building to get onto the highway. Additional delays are expected there, especially during afternoon peak travel times.

During morning and afternoon rush hours, nearly 60,000 commuters use the Chain Bridge and Beltway exit ramps and an additional 34,000 motorists drive on Chain Bridge Road, in both directions.

The traffic projects that impact motorists, in order of when they begin:

-The off-ramp from Chain Bridge northbound to the Beltway will be closed Tuesday night, so commuters will have to move to the left lane to turn at a temporary traffic signal. Motorists heading south on Chain Bridge towards Tysons or Vienna also will have to stop at a new light. On Chain Bridge northound, there will be two added left-turn lanes for Beltway access.

-Late Tuesday, all four northbound lanes of the Beltway will shift to the left when approaching Chain Bridge.

-Beginning at 9:30 p.m. Friday, all four lanes of Chain Bridge under the Beltway in Tysons will be closed until 5 a.m. Monday for the demolition of the old northbound I-495 bridge. Four ramps connecting the Beltway and Chain Bridge will also be closed all weekend. Traffic will be detoured to Route 7 and Georgetown Pike.

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