Major Headaches Loom on Main East Coast North-South Route

Wed August 27, 2003 - National Edition

SPRINGFIELD (AP) Thousands of drivers on some of the busiest East Coast highways will be sent on a massive detour near Washington, D.C., later in August so crews high above can install key components of a new bridge.

Virginia officials said Aug. 11 that closing northbound Interstate 95 and 395 lanes for 14 hours or more on each of two consecutive weekends should minimize safety risks.

“We would potentially have to deal with as many as 60,000 vehicles,” said Larry Cloyed, project manager for the Springfield Interchange Project. Instead, those vehicles will take a 7-mi. detour.

The work is part of a $676-million effort to modernize what Washington-area commuters call the “Mixing Bowl.” Each day approximately 430,000 vehicles pass through the interchange of Interstates 95, 395 and 495, which is the Capital Beltway.

The eight-year Virginia Department of Transportation project is scheduled for completion in 2007.

On Aug. 16 to 17 and Aug. 23 to 24, crews are expected to hoist 100-ton, football field-size steel girders approximately 100 ft. Securing them above the northbound lanes of Interstate 95 in Fairfax County, VA, will require approximately 290 bolt connections per beam.

VDOT will run advertisements on Virginia radio stations to warn motorists about delays that could affect drivers heading north from Georgia, the Carolinas and Florida. The American Automobile Association and the American Trucking Association also have been advised to promote alternate routes.

“Our goal is to reduce the amount of traffic in this area by having people stay another day at the beach, or think about taking another route,” said Steven Titunik, a VDOT spokesman.

The impact on southbound traffic is expected to be negligible — beyond the distraction caused by motorists who slow down to take a look at the massive cranes and construction materials.