Project Update: Woodrow Wilson Bridge Continues to Grow Over Potomac

Fri March 19, 2004 - Southeast Edition
Angela B. Hurni

The Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project, a $2.44 billion mega-project, is a bridge replacement job that also includes the construction of four new interchanges.

The project in its entirety includes a 7.5-mi. (12 km) corridor where work is occurring along the Capital Beltway (I-495), also designated as I-95.

Construction began with the dredging of the Potomac River in October 2000. New construction is continually under way with new contracts being awarded.

The project is made up of five sections, the first is the replacement of the 40-year-old Woodrow Wilson Bridge over the Potomac River. Currently, the eight-lane Capital Beltway (I-95/I-495) narrows into the six-lane Woodrow Wilson Bridge. Since the bridge is considered by many to be one of the worst bottlenecks in the country, the new bridge will ease congestion with two six-lane facilities for a total of twelve lanes.

The project’s remaining four sections will include reconstruction of two adjacent interchanges in both Virginia and Maryland.

There are four agencies sponsoring the project: The Federal Highway Administration (FHWA), Virginia Department of Transportation (VDOT), Maryland State Highway Administration (MSHA), and the District (of Columbia) Department of Transportation (DDOT).

Norine M. Walker, has worked on the project for nine years. She has been on the project during all phases: planning, design and, now, construction. Walker is the project coordination manager of URS Corporation, which is part of Potomac Crossing Consultants (PCC). A joint venture of URS, Parsons Brinckerhoff and RK&K, LLP, PCC is a general engineering consultant team providing design and construction management services for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project. In addition to the three joint venture companies, PCC also has nine supporting subcontractors on its team.

“We are the arms and legs of the agencies,” said Walker of the PCC. “They didn’t have the internal resources to do it.”

Parsons Transportation Group, Washington D.C., was selected to complete the final design of the replacement bridge. The new bridge will be 6,075 ft. (1,851 m) long and 234 ft. (71.3 m) wide and includes 34 fixed spans divided into two independent structures. It also has a 260-ft. (79.2 m) long, eight-leaf bascule span.

The bridge is being built in three main stages over seven to eight years. The first stage –– the dredging of the Potomac River –– was completed in late February 2001.

Weeks Marine Inc., Cranford, NJ, was awarded $15.6 million to complete the dredging so that heavy equipment could be moved to the construction area on the river, which is shallow in the project area. Approximately 340,000 cu. yds. (197,560 cu m) of soil was dredged and removed from the job site.

The second stage of the bridge construction was completed in July 2003. Virginia Beach-based, Tidewater Construction Company, a division of Tidewater Skanska, in a joint venture with Kiewit Construction Company and Clark Construction Group (TKC) completed the foundations for the piers supporting the bridge –– 17 in total.

The supports complement 11 water piers and six landside piers.

According to Walker, “They placed roughly 1,000 piles on the land and in the river for the support of the 17 piers.”

The third stage of construction for the bridge involves building V-shaped piers, a concrete deck and end supports. The third stage is further separated into three contracts –– A, B and C ––  and each are approximately 15 to 20 percent complete.

In a joint venture, American Bridge Co., Coraopolis, PA, and Edward Kraemer & Sons Inc., Plain, WI, were awarded $186 million for contract 3A, which includes the erection of falsework and formwork to construct the four bascule spans, comprising the twin drawbridges, the operator’s tower and all required electrical and mechanical work.

The bascule requires three arches per pier support as opposed to the two arches required for all the other piers. The increased support is needed because of the weight of the all-concrete bascule. The new structure will allow a clearance of approximately 70 ft. (21.3 m) and each of the three, cast-in-place, post-tensioned, V-shaped arched ribs per pier will be about 200 ft. (60.9 m) long.

The structures in contract 3A will require 40,000 cu. yds. (30,582 cu m) of concrete, of which Edward Kraemer & Sons is responsible. The construction of the bascule leafs, the responsibility of American Bridge, will include roughly 14 million lbs. (6.4 million kg) of structural steel.

The second contract in the third stage of construction, 3B, involves work on the 2,200-ft. (671 m) Virginia approach to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge.

The Virginia approach contract, said Walker, “begins where the land meets the bridge, or abutment, at Royal Street in Alexandria and extends to the moveable span.”

Also included in contract 3B is work on the foundation and pier supports not completed by the foundations contract, demolition of the existing bridge for the same portion, placement of the new deck, and installation of lighting, signing, and pavement markings.

Contract 3B was awarded to Virginia Approach Constructors, a joint venture of Corman Construction Company, Annapolis Junction, MD, and Granite Construction Company, Watsonville, CA.

Virginia Approach Constructors purchased two new 2003 Manitowoc cranes from the Baltimore office of J.W. Burress for work on this contract. To help lift a significant portion of the bridge, the joint venture purchased a Manitowoc 2250 300-ton (272 t) crane and a Manitowoc 999 275-ton (249.5 t) crane.

Byron R. Myers, area sales manager of the J.W. Burress office in Baltimore, said the Woodrow Wilson Bridge replacement is a “significant project” for his company. J.W. Burress has supplied additional equipment to various other contractors at the job site.

“We had two Grove rough-terrain cranes rented to joint venture, TKC,” said Myers. The team rented the cranes for two years, starting in 2000.

Williams Bridge Company, a subsidiary of Williams Industries Inc., has been awarded the largest single contract in the company’s history to fabricate, deliver and erect more than 13,500 tons (12,247 t) of steel for the Virginia approach of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge replacement. Its contract is valued at slightly less than $30 million.

Fabrication will occur at Williams Bridge Company’s facilities located in Manassas and Richmond, VA, and, if necessary, the company’s plant in Bessemer, AL, will provide assistance. Williams Steel Erection Company will work with Williams Bridge and provide the on-site erection.

The $191 million contract for the Maryland Approach, 3C, includes work from the bascule to the Maryland shoreline. American Bridge Co. and Edward Kraemer & Sons have joined Trumbull Corporation, based in Pittsburgh, to form the joint venture, Potomac Contractors. While the Virginia approach spans are mostly over land, the Maryland approach crosses more than three-quarters of the Potomac River.

The Woodrow Wilson Bridge will be built so that the outer loop will be completed and open to traffic first, and the inner loop will open about two years later. The complete Outer Loop Bridge should be completed by mid 2006, allowing traffic to be directed from the old bridge to the new bridge.

This portion of the bridge will carry both outer and inner loop traffic. Additionally, six lanes with right-side 12-ft. (3.7 m) and left-side 10-ft. (3 m) shoulders will replace the current six lanes that do not have functional shoulders.

In 2008, the Inner Loop Bridge should be completed, resulting in the total capacity on the two spans to provide eight lanes for general purpose traffic, two lanes for entering/exiting, two lanes for HOV/Express bus transit or heavy or light rail transit in a local/express lane configuration, safety shoulders and a bike/pedestrian path on the north side of the Inner Loop Bridge.

In Virginia, the Telegraph Road Interchange reconstruction project is not expected to be finished until 2011. The project has been divided into five contracts, four of which will be awarded in the future.

The Maryland interchange work is taking place at Maryland S.R. 210 and I-295. GA & FC Wagman Inc., York, PA, recently was awarded an $18.7-million contract for work on Bald Eagle Road Bridge, Forest Heights Noise Walls, and three ramps in Prince George’s County for the MD 210 interchange reconstruction.

A portion of the I-295 Interchange bridge connections will be completed this summer.

Soil consolidation began at the I-295 interchange on Rosalie Island in August 2001 and will be completed in 2004 by Driggs Corporation, Capitol Heights, MD. In addition, GA & FC Wagman was awarded two contracts: the I-295 ramps/S curve for $42.4 million and the I-295 outer loop express and local lanes/National Harbor interchange for $45.3 million.

The Maryland State Highway Administration opened a newly completed ramp from Southbound I-295 to I-95/Capital Beltway (outer loop) on Jan. 7. The ramp is part of GA & FC Wagman’s portion of the I-295/S-curve interchange contract. The new ramp replaces a cloverleaf loop ramp with a directional ramp. It also provides substantially improved merging and features better lighting and sightlines for improved safety.

As construction continues on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project, travel in the area may get worse before it gets better.

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