WASHINGTON – Two of the region’s biggest road improvement projects also produce some of the region’s worst congestion.
The extension and expansion of the Interstate 95 Express Lanes in Virginia and the 11th Street Bridge Project in Southeast Washington are among the area’s most expensive construction projects.
With an estimated price tag of $925 million, the construction projects on I-95 and I-395 in Virginia are on track to be completed in 2015. The ongoing rebuilding of the 11th Street Bridge and nearby freeways, with a cost of $390 million, is the District of Columbia’s priciest road project to date.
On I-95 in Virginia, the 95 Express Lanes Extension Project is in full swing. The High-Occupancy Vehicle (HOV) lanes are being converted into a dynamically tolled highway. The lanes will operate, like the 495 Express Lanes, as an all-electronic toll road with carpools exempted from paying tolls.
Over the past several months, midday drivers on I-95 and I-395 have been subjected to major slow-downs through the work area. VDOT allows for single-lane closures from mid-morning to 3 p.m. Monday through Thursday along the 29-mile-long project area. Crews are required to clear all work zones by noon on Fridays.
The lane closures allow for the safe delivery of materials to the work sites and give workers space for the physical construction of the road foundation.
For the next two weekends, crews will be closing I-95 south in both Dumfries and Quantico to begin heavy-duty construction of two new bridges over the interstate. The project strives to improve access to and from Route 610, Joplin Road, the Prince William Parkway and Fairfax County Parkway by adding new ramps and flyover bridges that connect directly to the express lanes.
Weekend work has had less of an impact on traffic, but crews have been closing the Express Lanes on some Saturdays and Sundays over the past few months. These closures have lessened the highway’s capacity, adding to delays on the mainline through Fairfax and Prince William counties.
In Southeast Washington, the 11th Street Bridge Project marks the latest chapter in the evolution of the city’s freeway system. The bridges that span the Anacostia River have been completely rebuilt, and all of the connections to Interstate 295, Kenilworth Avenue (D.C. Route 295) and Martin Luther King Avenue SE have opened. Still, many morning commuters from Maryland and Southeast Washington battle chronic delays on the freeway toward the Navy Yard where the project remains a work in progress.
A view from the Navy Yard looking down at the 11th Street Bridge Project one year ago. The photo was taken in late June 2012 and shows the old spans of the bridge on either side of the newer bridge, then newly opened to traffic. The picture also shows the new neighborhood bridge partially complete. The old freeway ramp in the foreground still stands. It has since been demolished. (WTOP/Dave Dildine)
The freeway is not in its final alignment. Inbound morning drivers are still using the old flyover ramp from the 11th Street Bridge to access the westbound Southeast Freeway while a new ramp is being built. Once the new three-lane ramp is finished, outbound traffic will be shifted onto the new ramp; inbound traffic will be shifted onto what is now the outbound ramp, and the old inbound ramp will be demolished. Project managers are hopeful this will happen by next summer.
Currently, the old inbound flyover ramp only carries two lanes of traffic onto the westbound freeway. Traffic backs up as four lanes of traffic merge into two lanes on the 11th Street Bridge after the exit to M Street SE. In its final alignment, three lanes will continue onto the freeway and two lanes will bear onto M Street.
If you have a question about a big road project on your commute, send an e-mail to Dave Dildine with the subject line Cone Zone.