Pedestrians pass 11th Street Bridge just east of the Anacostia River on March 5, 2012, soon after it was re-opened. The District Department of Transportation began this project in December of 2009 and plans to finish this year. (Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post)

When the District began rebuilding one of the main routes across the Anacostia River, project managers set about making a lot of changes within a relatively small section of riverfront. During the past year, some of those changes had a great impact on long-distance commuters and the nearby neighborhoods. More are coming in 2013.

New ramps

The 11th Street bridge now consists of three spans, two that primarily serve long-distance travelers and a third designed mainly to handle local traffic. Around the end of the month, two new ramps are scheduled to open, creating new connections with the local bridge.

One ramp will lead drivers from southbound D.C. 295 along a curvy ramp up to a traffic signal on the local span, the southernmost of the three. From the traffic signal, drivers will be able to turn right and cross the river toward Capitol Hill, or turn left toward the Anacostia neighborhood.

The other ramp will take drivers from that local bridge intersection onto northbound D.C. 295. Use caution merging with other drivers coming north on the freeway or coming in from the 11th Street bridge’s outbound freeway span. Note that the exit ramp for eastbound Pennsylvania Avenue will come up pretty quickly on the right side.

Completing local span

In late May or early June, project managers hope to put the local span in its final configuration. Right now, the span has two lanes heading toward the Capitol Hill side and one toward the Anacostia side. When complete, the span will have two lanes in each direction.

Part of the Southeast Freeway has closed, so some D.C. United fans will need a new route to their parking area. Map shows suggested routes.

The span will have a 16-foot-wide sidewalk on the downstream side. Walkers and bikers will have access to several scenic overlooks under construction in the middle of the span.

When complete, this span really will be an “11th Street” bridge. A traveler could go from Florida Avenue near Gallaudet University past Lincoln Park on Capitol Hill, where 11th Street picks up bike lanes, down across M Street SE by the Washington Navy Yard and across the local span to Martin Luther King Jr. Avenue in Anacostia.

Traffic patterns

Some of the major changes in 2012 included the opening of ramps on the two freeway spans that allowed commuters to cross the Anacostia without leaving the District’s freeways. The project also opened a ramp connecting northbound Interstate 295, the highway south of the 11th Street bridge, to the intersection on the local span. That ramp was helpful for drivers coming up I-295 or Suitland Parkway and heading for their jobs at the Navy Yard.

But some drivers have expressed frustration with traffic congestion on and near the freeway spans. Part of the difficulty is getting used to the new approach pattern from south of the bridge and the new exit pattern to the north. But there’s also an issue on the inbound freeway span, construction manager Peter McDonough said.

Many drivers using the new ramp from southbound D.C. 295 onto the freeway span are heading for Interstate 395 toward downtown or the 14th Street bridge. They enter the span on the right side but need to reach the two left lanes, the through lanes for I-395. Those left lanes already are occupied by traffic coming in from northbound I-295, so the merge can be difficult at rush hour. (The right two lanes on the inbound span take drivers toward M Street and the Navy Yard.)

The traffic pattern will change, but not until mid-2014, when demolition and construction on the Capitol Hill side results in the addition of a third through lane on the span for the freeway drivers.

For now, the drivers who want to limit their lane-changing should stay to the left on the ramp from southbound D.C. 295. Completion of the local span should help draw off traffic heading to and from the Navy Yard.

Southeast Freeway detour

Reconstruction of the bridge is part of the overall plan to improve the Anacostia waterfront, reordering traffic patterns and creating new ways of getting around the area. A lot of the rubble being created by demolition of the old 11th Street bridge is going into fill that is raising up a now-closed portion of the Southeast Freeway, which will be recreated as a boulevard.

The closing isn’t a problem for commuters who now have access to the new freeway spans, but it does affect soccer fans whose route to RFK Stadium includes I-395. Throughout D.C. United’s season, they will need to find another route to and from RFK’s Lot 8, on the southeast side of the stadium. Here’s what the project managers recommend:

To RFK from I-395: Continue across the 11th Street bridge over the Anacostia River. (That’s also Interstate 695.) Take the ramp for northbound D.C. 295. Move toward the right so you’ll be able to take the exit for westbound Pennsylvania Avenue and cross the river again via the Sousa bridge. Make a sharp right around Barney Circle SE to reach the RFK Stadium Access Road into Lot 8.

While coming around Barney Circle, you could also make a left onto 17th Street SE, then go right on Potomac Avenue SE and turn left onto 19th Street SE. At Independence Avenue SE, turn right and continue to Lot 8, which will be on your right.

Leaving RFK: Project managers think your best bet on exiting Lot 8 is to continue across the East Capitol Street (Whitney Young) bridge over the river and take the exit on the right for southbound D.C. 295.

Continue to the new ramp on the right of D.C. 295 that leads onto the 11th Street bridge.