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Waterfront Bridge Project Eases D.C. Traffic

The 11th Street Bridge Project's three new spans
The 11th Street Bridge Project’s three new spans—two for freeway traffic and one for local neighborhood traffic—are located between the twin spans of the original bridge. The new bridges were built between the two existing spans to minimize the impact of the project on residents and commuters. Courtesy of DDOT 

A contract has been awarded for the completion of Washington, D.C.’s 11th Street Bridge Project, which is creating separate local and interstate crossings over the Anacostia River. 

July 3, 2012—While many of the bridges that connect Washington, D.C., to Virginia across the Potomac River are well known and admired for their architecture—the neoclassical Arlington Memorial Bridge, for example, and the classical revival Francis Scott Key Bridge—the more modest bridges that cross the Anacostia River, on the eastern side of the city, garner far less attention. Yet traffic congestion throughout the city is legendary, and the Anacostia River bridges have contributed as much to those infamous bottlenecks as their western counterparts.

But a $90.7-million contract announced this week will put the finishing touches on a D.C. Department of Transportation (DDOT) project designed to ease congestion across one of the most significant of the eastern bridges, the 11th Street Bridge. This twin structure has long served the dual purpose of connecting local neighborhoods south of the Anacostia River to the main portion of the District while also carrying Interstate 295 traffic across the river; much of that traffic then used local roads to access the nearby Interstate 695 (known locally as the Southeast/Southwest Freeway). Serving local neighborhoods, regional commuters, and long-distance travelers on the interstate system has simply overwhelmed the bridge’s capacity in recent years.

Phase one of the 11th Street Bridge project included the replacement of the two 1960s crossings that formed the 11th Street Bridge with three new bridges that provide separate crossings for local and interstate traffic. All three crossings have been opened within the past seven months, although work on phase one of the project is still ongoing. The new contract awards the second phase of the project, called “project completion,” to a joint venture formed between Washington, D.C.-based Skanska USA Civil Southeast and the La Plata, Maryland-based Facchina.

The joint venture is also responsible for phase one, which began in April 2009 as a design/build-to-budget project. “The District was interested in having us do the rest of the work, because there’s some economy in doing the work simultaneously,” says Brook Brookshire, P.E., the project executive for the joint venture and a vice president of Skanska USA Civil Southeast.

“We’ve been working with the District to come up with a proposal to complete the project, and that’s what this particular award is—a completion of all the remaining [traffic] movements as defined by the record of decision and the final environmental impact statement,” Brookshire says. Project completion includes work on the north side of the Anacostia River, including the replacement of two two-lane flyover bridges with new connections that will boost traffic capacity; the alteration of a below-grade portion of the Southeast/Southwest Freeway to an at-grade boulevard with a signalized intersection at 11th Street; and the extension of 12th Street over rail tracks to connect it to the new boulevard. Each of these will improve local traffic access and flow in the area. 

Aerial view displaying various phases of the Waterfront Bridge Project 

Some aspects of phase one, shown in yellow and orange, are still
under construction; work on the completion phase, shown in blue
and pink, has just begun. Courtesy of Skanska/Facchina 

Most significantly, the new flyover bridges will enable interstate traffic to transition between interstates 295 and 695 directly from the 11th Street Bridge. “The addition of those movements [will] put the freeway traffic in a better place instead of coming down 295, having to get off on local roads, and then having to get back onto the interstate system,” Brookshire says.

Streamlining the interstate access from the 11th Street Bridge also makes it possible to restructure a 1,000 ft long section of the Southeast/Southwest Freeway into a boulevard designed primarily for local use, according to Brookshire. “There is approximately 150,000 cubic yards of fill required to be placed in order to bring the freeway up to grade,” Brookshire notes. The joint venture will streamline that effort by reusing fill displaced during the phase one work and recycling the concrete from deconstructed roadways and bridges. “We’re recycling some of the bridges that we’re taking down, crushing the concrete and turning it into useable aggregate,” Brookshire says.

The aggregate created from the deconstructed roadways “makes great fill material,” Brookshire notes. “Certainly, wherever possible, if you can recycle it and use it on the project as suitable fill, it’s a win-win for everybody,” he says. The steel from the freeways will be separated from the concrete and recycled off-site, he adds.

The reuse of fill and concrete not only conserves resources but also limits the movement of construction equipment in and out of the area, Brookshire adds—thus reducing traffic and air pollution. “The more we can use from phase one in project completion, [the more we can keep] trucks on the site rather than having them come in from all over the area, which is good,” he notes.

Construction of phase one of the 11th Street Bridge project is scheduled to be wrapped up by mid-2013, according to the project’s website. Work on the project completion phase began in early June and is anticipated to be complete by November 2015. Kansas City-based HNTB is serving as the construction manager.

The 11th Street Bridge project is part of the District’s Anacostia Waterfront Initiative, a 30-year, $10-billion program designed to upgrade this quadrant of the city into a world-class waterfront, according to information contained on the DDOT’s website.



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