Rep. Frank R. Wolf (R-Va.) introduced legislation yesterday aimed at widening the six-lane Theodore Roosevelt Bridge, which connects his congressional district with Washington.
The measure, which calls for a federal study to determine the feasibility of adding a fourth inbound lane to the Roosevelt Bridge, seems likely to touch off yet another debate among area officials over commuter traffic.
While Wolf said yesterday the widening was necessary to alleviate congestion on the bridge, officials in the District expressed concern about the possible impact of more cars on the city's streets during morning rush hour.
"Right now at the peak of the rush hour we're very tight on Independence Avenue, and encouraging more people to go down that way does not really strike our fancy too well," said George Schoene, the District's head of traffic engineering.
Wolf's bill calls for a 90-day study of the proposal by the Federal Highway Administration, in conjunction with District officials and the Virginia Department of Highways and Transportation.
If the study finds it would be safe and practical to add another lane, the measure calls for the construction of the lane with Department of Transportation funds. Wolf's staff estimated the study would cost $50,000 to $100,000, and the cost of a new lane would run at least $1 million.
"There's a safety question there in addition to the bottleneck," Wolf said. "You get a changing of lanes there, a lot of weaving back and forth, and it just bogs down."
According to Virginia highway figures released by Wolf, traffic on the bridge is running above its rated capacity of 6,000 vehicles an hour during its peak hour. On May 17, for example, the bridge carried 6,349 vehicles eastbound between 8:15 and 9:15 a.m.
Traffic planners have said the capacity of the bridge, which siphons Washington-bound traffic from I-66, state Rte. 50 and the George Washington Parkway, offers a strong argument against lowering the so-called HOV (High Occupancy Vehicle) car-pooling restrictions on I-66.