New W&OD Trail Bridge in East Falls Church Opening Today

(Updated at noon) The new W&OD Trail bridge over Lee Highway in East Falls Church is now open.

VDOT announced the opening of the $6 million bridge Friday morning, touting “a safer, faster crossing over busy Route 29.” Previously, trail users would have to wait to cross Lee Highway at a crowded intersection, next to ramps to and from I-66 and Washington Blvd.

The trail is used by cyclists and pedestrians for both commuting and recreation. About 1,500 people travel on the W&OD near new bridge each weekday, while more than 2,000 use it on weekends.

The project prompted trail detours over its nearly two years of construction. It was funded — along with upgrades to I-66 ramps, repairs to overpasses, sound wall replacements, and a new Custis Trail roundabout — as part of the larger I-66 eastbound widening project.

Some finishing touches on the bridge and the nearby intersection will be completed through this summer, VDOT said. As of noon, however, the bridge was officially open.

More from a press release, below.

The new Washington & Old Dominion (W&OD) Trail Bridge over Route 29 (Lee Highway) in Arlington will open this afternoon, Friday, March 12, announced the Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT). This new bridge will provide bicyclists and pedestrians with a safer, faster crossing over busy Route 29 adjacent to I-66. The new bridge was built as part of VDOT’s I-66 Eastbound Widening Project.

“This new W&OD Trail bridge is another step forward in VDOT’s commitment to expanding multimodal transportation options in the I-66 corridor and across the region,” said Bill Cuttler, P.E., VDOT Northern Virginia District Construction Engineer. “The new bridge will benefit a range of trail users, from people walking and bicycling to the nearby East Falls Church Metrorail Station to the dedicated bicycle commuters who use the trail year-round to reach destinations across Northern Virginia and Washington, D.C.”

The new crossing separates trail users from motorists at the signalized intersection of Route 29 and Fairfax Drive. The new bridge will enhance safety for both trail users and motorists and improve operations at nearby intersections on Route 29.

This section of the W&OD Trail between Arlington and Falls Church is heavily traveled by approximately 1,500 bicyclists and pedestrians on weekdays and more than 2,000 trail users on weekends. On weekdays, the W&OD Trail is a significant commuter route, carrying a steady flow of cyclists in both directions, tying together much of the region’s trail network. On weekends, the trail is a prime recreational resource for thousands of cyclists, runners, walkers, and more.

“The W&OD is the center spine of the trail network in Northern Virginia and has reached a new level of use during the pandemic,” said Paul Gilbert, Executive Director of NOVA Parks. “We are thrilled to offer trail users this new bridge over one of the busiest intersections along the trail. This is part of the larger effort to improve the capacity of the trail in more urban areas. The new dual-trail configuration being constructed in Falls Church to separate pedestrians from cyclists on parallel paths is also part of this greater effort. NOVA Parks created the W&OD Trail 45 years ago, and with our many partners, we continue to improve and evolve the trail to meet the needs of today.”

The new, six-span bridge is 623 feet long, with the longest span being above Route 29 at a length of 153 feet. Design and construction of the bridge were complex due to the close proximity to Dominion Energy’s energized 230 KV transmission lines, which require minimum clearances, and led to the need to introduce curvature in the bridge to meet requirements. Additionally, the new bridge was constructed adjacent to the historic Benjamin Elliott Coal Trestle, built in 1926 for processing of coal from the W&OD Railroad for local delivery.

“The partnership between VDOT, the County, NOVA Parks, and our community made this bridge a reality,” Arlington County Board Chair Matt de Ferranti said. “This new connection will benefit Arlington and the entire regional trail network by making it safer and more comfortable for all trail users who ride the W&OD Trail.”

Minor additional work will occur on and around the bridge through summer 2021, including replacing traffic signals at the Route 29 intersections with Fairfax Drive and Washington Boulevard and constructing new curb ramps at these two intersections.

The approximately $6 million trail bridge was designed and constructed by VDOT and its design-build contractor, Lane Construction Corporation, in collaboration with NOVA Parks (owner and operator of the W&OD Trail), Arlington County, and the City of Falls Church. The trail bridge is part of several multimodal improvements being built through the $85.7 million I-66 Eastbound Widening Project, a part of VDOT’s larger Transform 66 Program aimed at moving more people along the I-66 corridor more efficiently.

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