Mother Nature blamed for failures with Woodrow Wilson Bridge gates

Redfish, also known as puppy drum or red drum, have been spotted in the water near the Wilson Bridge. (WTOP/Michelle Basch)

WASHINGTON – Mother Nature is responsible for early morning traffic backups and problems on a $2.5 billion bridge that is only six years old.

There were two malfunctions this past weekend on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge that takes the Capital Beltway across the Potomac River.

The bridge span failed to close properly after opening on Saturday morning, and on Sunday morning, a barrier gate failed to open.

Traffic stopped for the scheduled early morning opening, and was backed up in both cases for almost 45 minutes.

Engineers now know why it happened. The weather affected the electronics.

“Circuit breaker, relay switches, wires are all effected by the elements, moisture, heat, vibration, barometric pressure,” says Virginia Department of Transportation bridge engineer Nick Roper.

This is a common occurrence on drawbridges throughout the country — even new ones. He says VDOT is looking for work-arounds for the next time.

The bridge opened 54 times in the last year for ship traffic or testing.

Openings are restricted to overnight and early-morning hours.

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