ALEXANDRIA, VA (AP) On Oct. 12, two cranes hoisted the first steel beam for the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge into place, and construction workers used 250 bolts to secure the 57-ton girder onto V-shaped piers on the Virginia side of the Potomac River.
“It marks the point in time where we’ve completed the foundation to support the superstructure,” Resident Engineer David Takoor said.
Construction on the foundation began in May 2001, but the beams are a visible sign for the 195,000 motorists who each day use the bridge connecting Alexandria with Oxon Hill, MD, along Interstate 95. That’s 120,000 more vehicles than planned for when it opened in 1961.
“It’s a good sign. We’re on schedule,” Construction Manager Jim Ruddell said.
The schedule is to transfer all traffic from the old Wilson Bridge onto the first new six-lane bridge in mid-2006. The old span will then be torn down to build the other twin bridge that will ultimately carry traffic from Maryland to Virginia in 2008.
Takoor said motorists will see some improvement from 2006 to 2008 while using just one of the twin bridges. The new bridge, for example, will have a shoulder that can be used if there is an accident. It also is 20 ft. higher, so the drawbridge will not have to open as often to accommodate ships. Studies estimate this will reduce bridge openings by 75 percent.
The beam added Oct. 12 is the first of 168 which will be installed in the next 10 months. Contractors plan to bring in two beams each night during the midnight shift to minimize traffic problems, and then install them during the day, starting on the Virginia side and working toward Maryland.
The $2.43-billion project, which also includes work on the highways leading to the bridge, will be fully completed in 2011.
The finished bridges will have 12 lanes. One lane in each direction is expected to be used for either rail transit or carpool/bus only lanes. A bicycle path across the bridge also is planned to connect trails on either side.
Daily traffic across the Wilson Bridge is expected to grow to 300,000 vehicles a day by 2020.
AP Photo: A worker walks across a large steel beam that was set in place by cranes onto the V-shaped piers of the new Wilson Bridge in Alexandria, VA, Tuesday, Oct. 12. Two cranes hoisted the first steel beam for the new bridge into place, and construction workers used 250 bolts to secure the 57-ton girder onto V-shaped piers on the Virginia side of the Potomac River.