I met with top officials of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project Thursday, and they report that the work is "coming along in great shape." By June, the first of two new bridges will open to traffic in both directions.
Then the old bridge will be knocked down, and a second new bridge will be opened in summer 2008. The Maryland interchanges at Interstate 295 and Route 210 also will be finished in mid-2008.
The Virginia Route 1 interchange is scheduled to be finished in the first quarter of 2009, and the last element, the Telegraph Road interchange, is scheduled for completion by summer 2011.
When completed, the bridges and 7.5 miles of the Capital Beltway (including the bridges) will be expanded to five lanes in each direction, with a sixth lane reserved for rail, bus, carpooling or carpooling and express-toll travel.
The project is on schedule and on budget ($2.4 to $2.5 billion), which is saying something -- it is one of the five largest public works projects in the country, and construction projects often take more time and money than originally planned.
An enormous amount of work is going into the four new Beltway interchanges, with new ramps and bridges and temporary traffic lights leading up to the Beltway.
I get periodic letters from readers confused about bridge construction. You can get these questions answered by logging on to the project Web site, www.wilsonbridge.com, and clicking on "Contact Us." The bridge staff promises to answer each inquiry.
Also on this Web site, you can access color charts showing timetables for the work, and you can request a placemat-size color map of the work at the Maryland Route 210 interchange and the Virginia Route 1 interchange. This details the work that has been done, and will be done, with timetables for completion.
The new drawbridges, because they are higher, will open 200 times less frequently each year: only five to six times a month. To learn when the bridge is opening, call 877-INFOWWB.
You may also send your construction inquiries to Dr. Gridlock, and I'll pass them on to the project staff for answers. We can discuss in the Dr. Gridlock columns some aspects of the work that affect traffic significantly.
I'm very impressed with the public relations component of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project. By having a Web site, telephone number and staff answering every concern, project officials have gone a long way to minimize citizen discontent.
Problems on Roads and Rails
A couple of complaints that registered with me over the past week:
(1) A woman told me that Metrorail is so crowded, and getting on and off is so inefficient, that she has been carried off the train in the hordes, even though she didn't want to get off.
Metro, at last, is considering a move that should make entering and exiting a lot easier. The system is looking at marking train platforms where train doors will stop. People can line up, single file, and enter the train orderly and politely, as transit riders do in San Francisco's BART system.
This would be a pilot project at Union Station, Metro Center and Gallery Place that would start early next year. Readers tell me this system works in other large subway systems.
Something needs to be done. In rush hours, with mobs facing each other, there often isn't enough time for everyone to get off and on. The doors snap shut. They can be very unforgiving.
(2) A gentleman from Annapolis reported reading that one of the roadside tests for possible drunk drivers is that the suspect has to stand on one leg, unsupported, and count to 30. He reports that his exercise group tried it, and no one could do it. I can't get to 10, myself.
I'm wondering if anyone has encountered a "test" like this. What were the results?
Dr. Gridlock, Live Online
Dr. Gridlock will host another Live Online discussion tomorrow from 1 to 2 p.m. I'll start taking questions about noon and go live at 1 p.m. Log on to www.washingtonpost.com/liveonline.
Transportation researcher Diane Mattingly contributed to this column.
You can write to Dr. Gridlock at 1150 15th St. NW, Washington, D.C. 20071. He prefers to receive e-mail, at firstname.lastname@example.org, or faxes, at 703-352-3908. Include your full name, town, county and day and evening telephone numbers.