This weekend DDOT crossed a major milestone on the largest construction project it has ever undertaken. Mayor Gray joined Director Bellamy, Chief Engineer Ronaldo ”Nick” Nicholson, Council Chairman Kwame Brown, Councilmember Mary Cheh and Federal Highway Division Administrator Christopher Lawson Friday for the ribbon cutting on the new inbound 11th Street Freeway Bridge. The community – which has been a great partner throughout the project – was also well represented at the event.
Following the ribbon cutting, crews completed last minute tasks and over the weekend shifted traffic to the new inbound bridge. The first vehicles to use the new crossing came across at 11:38 am on Sunday, December 18.
The inbound bridge is one of three new spans included in the $300 million project which began in December 2009. A new outbound bridge is also expected to open to traffic within days and a third bridge for local traffic is under construction and will open in 2012.
Mayor Gray noted the project is “ahead of schedule and represents a giant step forward for our transportation system. Critical for connecting one city across the Anacostia River, these new spans will serve our residents, workers and visitors for decades to come.”
The three new bridges are replacing two 50-year-old spans that are considered functionally obsolete and structurally deficient. Also, they don’t always get you where you need to go. For instance, there is no direct connection from the old outbound 11th Street Bridge to northbound DC 295, or from southbound 295 to the inbound bridge.
The 11th Street Bridge Project will change that. New ramps will make those “missing connections” and create a seamless connection between the SE/SW Freeway and the Anacostia Freeway (I-295/DC 295). That will smooth the ride in and out of downtown for many commuters, but also will keep a lot of traffic out of the local neighborhoods.
Residents will also greatly benefit from the completion of the “local” bridge. It really will function more as a neighborhood street that happens to cross the Anacostia River and will link Anacostia, Fairlawn and Congress Heights to the Navy Yard, Barracks Row and Capitol Hill. It will also include space for future transit and a 16 foot wide shared path for pedestrians and cyclists. Those multi-modal features will help draw people to the banks of the Anacostia, to explore neighborhoods on both sides of the river, and to enjoy the Riverwalk Trail, another major piece of the Anacostia Waterfront Initiative (AWI).
Again, that “local” bridge and the new ramps are scheduled to be completed next year, but judging by the progress so far, the wait shouldn’t be too long. The project is several months ahead of schedule and DDOT has shaved time and money off the project by using a design-build-to-budget mechanism.
There are other reasons to celebrate the success of the project:
- Close to 400 men and women work on the job site daily, and at least 73 DC residents have been hired during the project.
- The design and construction of the new bridges have incorporated many environmentally friendly techniques, including limiting stormwater runoff and recycling debris from the old ramps and bridges for use as filler in the new structures.
- The new spans are being built between the two existing spans, which minimized the impact of the construction on traffic.
Of course, no construction project is completely pain-free, and in the coming months DDOT will be asking residents and drivers for their patience as we continue to make progress on this critical project. The true value of that work will come into focus when we complete the remaining bridges and ramps, but from our vantage point, the 11th Street Bridges are already looking great.