Arlington, VA

In a surprise move, VDOT has revealed that it is planning to begin construction on a new Washington Boulevard bridge over Columbia Pike next year.

In an email to local leaders, VDOT senior engineer Christiana Briganti-Dunn said the agency plans to award a contract to build the bridge by February. Utility relocations are expected to follow, with major construction beginning by late summer or early fall of 2011.

VDOT expects the project to be complete by the end of 2014.

One local leader said drivers should expect a traffic “nightmare” on the eastern end of Columbia Pike during construction of the new bridge.

The design for the bridge, more generally called the Route 27/244 interchange, will remain the same as was presented at a public hearing in June 2008. In addition to replacing the bridge, the project calls for new traffic signals to be placed on Columbia Pike.

Leaders say that given the long delays in the project, the announcement is surprising (in a good way). The bridge was called “decaying” and “crumbling” in a Washington Post article more than five years ago. The same article said that replacing the bridge “has been a top priority of Arlington County for more than 15 years.”

Even VDOT notes that the bridge, which dates back to the 1940s, “was rated as ‘poor’ in recent structural inspections.”

VDOT plans to call the new bridge the “Freedmen’s Village Bridge.”

Update on 8/31 — VDOT spokesperson Joan Morris assures us that as with all local VDOT projects, there will be no lane closures during rush hour on Columbia Pike or Washington Boulevard during the construction. It’s not clear how engineers will install a new bridge while maintaining existing traffic lanes and on-ramps, but we expect to learn more next week.

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