Big traffic delays are likely to result from paving work this weekend on the inner loop of the Capital Beltway near the Woodrow Wilson Bridge. By Monday morning, the inner loop’s THRU lanes in Virginia will be in their final configuration, but this is just the beginning of a busy season of paving and lane adjustments along the Beltway.

By the end of the summer, the LOCAL and THRU lanes on both sides of the Beltway should be completely open, leaving Telegraph Road’s reconstruction as the last major element of the massive project, scheduled to be completely done by mid-2013.

The most significant impact on drivers this year will be an end to the bottleneck that prevented outer loop traffic from getting the full benefit of the new Wilson Bridge.

But that’s still to come, during the summer. (See more about the project’s schedule on this coming Sunday’s Commuter page.) Of more immediate concern is the possibility that this weekend’s inner loop paving will back up traffic across the Wilson Bridge and into Maryland. Here are the details.

Lane changes

Beginning at 8 p.m. Thursday, the inner loop THRU lanes will be reduced to a single lane between the bridge and Telegraph Road.

A temporary second LOCAL lane will be opened between Route 1 and Telegraph Road to ease traffic congestion. That lane will be open until Monday morning. Project managers encourage drivers to use the inner loop LOCAL lanes during the day on Friday.

From 8 p.m. Friday to 5 a.m. Monday, all THRU lanes on the inner loop will be shut. The inner loop LOCAL exits to Pershing Avenue and Telegraph Road North also will be closed.

Drivers on the LOCAL lanes heading to the Eisenhower Valley should exit at the Eisenhower Connector and return on Eisenhower Avenue East, the project managers advise.

Alternative routes

During this disruption, some drivers going from Maryland to Virginia would be better off swinging around to the west side of the Beltway and using the American Legion Bridge to cross the Potomac. Others might find it easier to come south on the Baltimore-Washington Parkway and take New York Avenue to the left turn onto I-395 to reach the 14th Street Bridge.

Travelers starting on the eastern side of the D.C. region and heading south on vacation might consider the Nice Bridge on Route 301 over the Potomac River.

Next week’s traffic

By the Monday morning rush, the two THRU lanes on the inner loop should be complete and in their final configuration. But then the work will move to the LOCAL lanes.

Only one inner loop LOCAL lane will be open from Monday until July 1, when the paving is scheduled to be done. During that time, drivers on the inner loop THRU lanes won't be able to exit at the Eisenhower Connector. Drivers bound for Eisenhower Avenue will need to exit farther west at the Van Dorn Street interchange.

If the weather doesn’t mess with this schedule, then on July 1, all the inner loop work between Route 1 and the Eisenhower Connector will be done, leaving two THRU lanes and two LOCAL lanes in their final alignment.