IN RELENTLESSLY awful weather both on and under the 14th Street Bridge, the grim tests of endurance and patience continue, no longer a rescue effort but a critical salvage operation with no firm end in sight. There is nothing the least bit pleasant about the jobs being done at this site, and the mission is too complicated and delicate to second-guess; still, there is a serious concern about how soon the bridge will be ready for commuter traffic. At one point yesterday, word had it that lanes in both directions might be cleared by evening; southbound lanes did open, but resumption of northbound traffic was postponed. Now, the target is for some time this weekend--and every effort should be made to meet this deadline.

With Chain Bridge also a mess, traffic between the city and Virginia has been extremely difficult already--and this not even in what could be called normal rush-hour volume, due to government, school and holiday closings. But if yesterday morning's snarls represented a fraction of what could happen Monday, authorities should do everything in their power to clear as many lanes as possible at least for the rush hours.

Motorists, too, can help the situation--and themselves--by 1) avoiding the 14th Street Bridge and its connecting arteries, if possible using other bridges and refraining from "sightseeing" cruises; 2) organizing car pools to reduce the number of vehicles in that area on Monday; and 3) starting out earlier than usual.