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Washington Blvd Bridge Work to Begin This Spring

by ARLnow.com September 22, 2011 at 4:25 pm 8,732 31 Comments

The project has been nearly 20 years in the making, but VDOT has finally nailed down rough a construction schedule for the Washington Boulevard bridge over Columbia Pike.

At a community meeting on Tuesday, VDOT project manager Christiana Briganti-Dunn said land acquisition and construction is expected to begin this spring and will be complete by Aug. 2015. The $51.5 million project is being paid for primarily with federal and state funds, although Arlington is expected to contribute about $1 million for utility relocation and upgrades.

The project will replace the crumbling Washington Boulevard bridge, which dates back to the 1940s, and replace it with a new, wider span that will be dubbed the Freedman’s Village Bridge, in honor of the enclave of freed slaves that was established nearby in 1863 and remained until the 1890s.

The new, wider bridge will allow a turn lane to be placed in between the four existing lanes of Columbia Pike. It will also allow for a 10-foot mixed-use path next to the westbound lanes, and the possible future addition of dedicated bicycle lanes. The design of the bridge was elevated by couple of inches to accommodate the planned Columbia Pike streetcar, Briganti-Dunn added.

Another planned change is the addition of two traffic lights on Columbia Pike, at the intersection with two sets of reconfigured Washington Boulevard ramps. The intersection of S. Quinn Street and Columbia Pike will be reconfigured as a one-way only entrance into the Arlington View neighborhood, and the traffic light there will be moved to the intersection of Columbia Pike and N. Queen Street, where reconfigured ramps onto and off of eastbound Washington Boulevard will converge.

On the northwest side of the new interchange, a 15-20 foot sound wall will be installed. The size of the barrier, and the loss of trees along its path, drew some criticism at Tuesday’s meeting, though engineers argued that it was the only feasible way to keep highway noise out of a nearby condo complex. VDOT promised to preserve or replant trees, where possible, and touted the addition of two storm water management ponds next to the new ramps as a plus, environmentally.

One thing that won’t be changing is the “time of day lane use” on eastbound Columbia Pike. Briganti-Dunn said that VDOT expects to maintain the use of the righthand eastbound lane as a right-turn only lane onto Washington Boulevard during the morning rush hour. However, the agency plans to replace the current small, easy-to-miss lane restriction signs with lighted, dynamic lane signs. It’s hoped that the new signs will help make the accident-prone ramp safer.

During construction, traffic disruptions will be kept to a minimum for Columbia Pike and Washington Boulevard drivers, Briganti-Dunn said. All travel lanes will be kept clear during the morning and evening rush hours, and drivers will only have to put up with intermittent lane closures during the long construction process. During certain construction and demolition stages — during off-peak hours — Columbia Pike traffic will be redirected up the existing northbound ramps to a four-way traffic signal that will be placed on Washington Boulevard. Briganti-Dunn said the traffic light, when it’s in place, is not expected to significantly reduce the capacity of either thoroughfare.

No local street detours are planned, and no homes will need to be torn down to make way for the reconfigured interchange, Briganti-Dunn said.

  • John

    This at least looks better than that engineered monstrosity that is the rt. 50 bridge over Washington Blvd.

  • AVer

    Seems like overkill on the traffic lights.

    • UnlimitedCustoms

      Part of Arlington’s anti-car stance – to make driving so unbearable due to artificial congestion.

      • drax

        Only a complete lunatic would find a way to argue that building a huge, wider bridge is anti-car.

        • Lou

          The comment was in reference to the added traffic lights. Could you not have taken the time to read before lashing out and name calling?

          • drax

            I saw no such reference to added traffic lights in his comment. I only saw this: “Part of Arlington’s anti-car stance – to make driving so unbearable due to artificial congestion.” So if he meant the lights, he should have said so.

          • drax

            Ah, okay. I see that one message is a response to the next. Sorry.

      • Josh S

        I’m wondering if you have a macro for this response? Press one button and it automatically comes flushing down out of your computer?

    • little johnny fudgepack

      It appears they’ve only added 2 lights, and moved the one from S. Quinn to S. Queen. If i read that diagram correctly, it looks like someone going westbound on Columbia Pike will now be able to get on north-east bound Washington Blvd at Queen street with a left arrow.

      I don’t think this is overkill at all. By having a light handling traffic coming off southwest-bound Washington Blvd, traffic can clear out without backing up on Wash Blvd.

      I daresay the traffic engineers have spent more time studying this intersection — with greater analytics — than any of us.

  • Eric S.

    Wow, 3 1/2 years of construction! Is that to satisfy the constraint of maintaining capacity during peak times?

    • Huh?

      I never understand how it takes this long to build things like this. They can put up a 60 story sky scraper in 1 year but it takes this long to do a 100 ft span? I bet it takes even longer than they anticipate too.

      • Kirk

        Remember how long it took for them to build the pedestrian overpass over Rt. 50 near Home Depot? Years.

        The Pentagon was built in 16 months, BTW.

        • drax

          I looked up the cost of building the Pentagon and the inflation factor – it was equal to about $1.2 billion in today’s dollars.

          Building something fast ain’t cheap.

        • nom de guerre

          And I have yet to observe one person using the pedestrian overpass that you referred to.

      • drax

        Eric, you answered your own question.

        The rest of you, seriously? You don’t see how building a bridge while continuing use of the existing roads makes it take longer? This must be explained to you?

    • Michael H.

      Probably. That’s also why the Humpback Bridge took so long. They would have been able to finish it far sooner, but they kept the GW Parkway open throughout construction.

    • Wiz

      Good, fast, or cheap. Choose two of three.

  • CW

    Fifty-one point five million U.S. dollars, before cost overruns?! I don’t have a great feeling for the average cost of different-sized construction projects, but gosh that seems like a lot.

    • CrystalMikey

      A good bridge ain’t cheap.

    • The $51.5m includes contingencies, so the actual cost may be a bit lower.

  • FredA

    Am I missing something – what is the point of Ramp B now? If they are making the end of Ramp D a four way stop controlled by a traffic light, then northbound traffic can go either east or west. That would eliminate the middle light.

  • slip

    OMG…what will Arlington Ridge say? They are taking out the slip lanes!

    • jsd

      HAHAHA! I love it!

  • steve85

    Wow thats good that they named the bridge in honor of the freed slaved. Nice work Arllington!!!!

    • drax

      Makes’s a nice “f*** you” to Jefferson Davis Highway too.

  • Dan

    Bye bye stalactites

  • Teyo

    I don’t get why there need to be 3 lights there. Here’s a similar situation near where I used to live way back in the day and they only use 2 lights: http://g.co/maps/856re

    Get rid of Ramps A&B or C&D and configure the remaining pair to allow turns from both directions.

  • UnlimitedCustoms

    Doesn’t address the issue for those E heading to 395 N. They have a short distance to cut over.

  • Charles

    They’re putting in frikkin traffic lights?? Jezuz, how stupid do ya gotta be to work for Arlington? THIS stupid, apparently.*

    That’s going to cause freaking massive bottle necks. I realize this is Arlington where, if they can screw up traffic they will and no intersection deserves to be without a traffic light (images of Keystone Cops panic-stricken at the very thought) – but this is STUPID even for Arlington County, Walter Tejada, Jay Fisette, Barbara Favola, and the rest ntm the people who work for them.

    *Stupid in the sense of low intelligence and inability to piece together real solution. TRAFFIC LIGHTS?

    • Chris Slatt

      1. This is VDOT’s baby; Arlington has some input, but VDOT is primarily responsible for the design.
      2. Also the Federal Highway Administration has oversight of the design since 27 is part of the Federal Highway System.
      3. It’s an exceptionally difficult interchange to do anything with because it is crammed into a tiny area, so don’t expect any sort of ideal solution.

      But please, don’t let me interfere with your fantasy-based gripe fest.

  • Blomster

    Will the new bridge still have cars heading west onto Washington Boulevard from 395 staying in the exit-only lane for Columbia Pike and then cutting over onto Washington Boulevard at the last minute? It’s hard to tell from the diagram, but I think the answer is yes.


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