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Roosevelt Bridge lanes could reopen in June after emergency repairs

Work on ramps to Virginia will continue through end of summer, D.C. officials say

Repairs underway on the Roosevelt Bridge in February. (Marvin Joseph/The Washington Post)

A section of the Theodore Roosevelt Bridge that was closed abruptly for emergency repairs two months ago is likely to reopen to traffic in June, according to officials with the District Department of Transportation.

Crews began work on the 58-year-old bridge after an early-February inspection found steel support beams had continued to deteriorate, prompting the closure of three middle lanes and restrictions on heavyweight vehicles along the busy commuter route that carries Interstate 66 over the Potomac River.

DDOT Director Everett Lott said work on the main span is about halfway complete and the closed lanes could open in mid-June. Work will continue through September on a section that includes ramps to Virginia.

“We don’t anticipate any delays in the project at this point in time,” said Lott, who in February warned the schedule could be affected by delays in the supply chain. He said crews have been working round-the-clock to complete repairs on the deck, which is along bridge’s surface, as well as on the superstructure, which supports the deck. The work involves steel repair to the floor beams.

Roosevelt Bridge lane closures could worsen commutes through summer as more workers return to offices

On Feb. 11, DDOT limited traffic to two outer lanes in each direction while the three middle lanes were closed for repairs. Vehicle weights were restricted to 10 tons, putting the bridge off-limits to buses and large trucks. The shift in traffic patterns on one of the busiest commuter routes into the city occurred as more residents returned to in-person work.

Traffic effects have been manageable, city transportation officials said. A DDOT traffic analysis indicates delays are more pronounced on the eastbound lanes, with traffic coming into the city facing two to three minutes of delays over the bridge during the morning rush. Smaller delays are experienced throughout the rest of the day, according to the assessment, and the impacts have not expanded to surrounding streets or other bridges that cross the Potomac.

Buses and heavy commercial vehicles continue to use alternative crossings. DDOT said that once the work is completed on the bridge this summer, the weight restriction could be lifted or increased to 20 tons. That decision, officials said, will depend upon results from an evaluation of the deck condition at the time.

Although the city plans to reopen the three lanes in June, occasional closures of a single lane are possible through September as work continues on the ramps.

The Roosevelt Bridge is a commuter artery that supported about 150,000 vehicles daily before the pandemic. It has not had a major rehabilitation since it opened in 1964 and was rated in “poor” condition in 2018 — a designation that doesn’t necessarily mean it is unsafe to use. It is also past a bridge’s 50-year life span.

The latest records on the Federal Highway Administration bridge database, from a 2020 inspection, indicate several of the bridge’s features, including its railings, do not meet current standards, while it notes the deck condition is rated “poor.”

District officials say the emergency repairs, which are costing the city about $6 million, will enable the Roosevelt Bridge to support normal operations until a full rehabilitation is done in about two years, partially using funding from the infrastructure package President Biden signed in November.

The full rehabilitation is likely to start in early 2024 and is estimated to cost about $150 million, Lott said. DDOT is moving forward with the project design this year and expects to launch a competitive bidding process next year. The project would be similar to the recent two-year, $227 million rehabilitation of the Arlington Memorial Bridge, which involved months of closed and shifted lanes and traffic disruptions.

District officials said the Roosevelt Bridge is a priority and the city is coming up with a funding plan, including the use local and federal infrastructure money.

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The District is slated to receive $3 billion in funding over five years from the federal infrastructure law, of which about $1.3 billion will be used to restore roads and bridges. Jenny Reed, director of the D.C. Office of Budget and Performance Management, said last month the city plans to spend $225 million of the money to bring structurally deficient bridges into a state of good repair, including the Roosevelt Bridge.

In the meantime, city officials said they understand that more people are being called back to downtown offices this spring and that delays could grow at the bridge as work continues. Their advice is to use alternative routes or to not drive into the city.

“We really encourage more people to get out of their single-occupancy vehicles,” Lott said. “If they can mode-share, if they can ride our buses or use Metro, we’re really encouraging folks to do that just because we know that it’s really better for the environment and we want to get more cars off the roadways.”