A big milestone has been reached in the construction of a new Washington Blvd overpass over Columbia Pike: Washington Blvd traffic is now using both new bridges.
The Virginia Department of Transportation changed the traffic pattern today, directing eastbound traffic onto the newly constructed bridge. Before today, eastbound and westbound traffic shared the first bridge built as part of the $48.5 million, three-year long construction project.
The bridge is expected to fully open by late this summer and be named Freedman’s Village Bridge, after the freed slave community that was founded a few miles away.
“We wanted to pay respect to the local significance of Freedman’s Village,” VDOT Project manager Christiana Briganti-Dunn told ARLnow.com today. “Four pylons will show the name and there will be medallions on the bridge replicating scenery in the village, taken from a Harper’s Weekly story from 1864.”
The remaining work to be done includes completing the box culverts to redirect Long Branch Creek, which flows underneath the interchange, ramp reconstruction, a shared-use path, a sound barrier and painting. VDOT spokeswoman Jenni McCord said they are planning a “big celebration” when the bridge opens up.
This morning, in the shadow of the bridge, VDOT hosted a kick-off event for National Work Zone Awareness Week, highlighting the dangers for motorists and construction workers in highway work zones.
“So many lives are at risk when a driver fails to follow the rules of the road in a highway work zone,” Virginia State Police Capt. James De Ford told a crowd of about 50 workers, transportation agency employees and media. “Drivers must stay alert in work zones. The consequences are too severe not to.”
Arlington Department of Environmental Services spokeswoman Jessica Baxter said that Arlington in 2014 had fewer work zone injuries than any of the previous five years. In Virginia, 15 people were killed in work zone accidents in 2014 — all of them motorists.