The first of 50 V-shaped supports for the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge is rising out of the Potomac River using a novel approach.
The Kraemer Co. and American Bridge contracting team that is building the drawbridge is using in-place mold to allow the concrete to be laid in place.
“The way that they’re setting up with their false work, which holds up the concrete as they’re pouring it … they’re going to keep reusing those,” said Jim Russell, construction manager with Potomac Crossings Consultants that is coordinating work among the three jurisdictions and a dozen general contractors.
“It’s an innovative way to make the piers,” he said. “The bascule bridge has to be very robust and withstand cycles of loading as we open and close that 4,000 times,” said
The first pouring of concrete will begin as early as late next week.
The new span over its 75-year life-span will open less than 4,000 times. That estimate comes from a less frequent rate of openings than the current bridge because the new bridge will be 20 feet higher. The existing bridge in its 40 years has opened 10,000 times, he said.
A bascule is a counterweight drawbridge, and the draw-span arches will have to support 2,000 tons of counterweight, he said. Because it is balanced, a 150-horsepower engine is all that will be needed to open and close a span, he said.
The rest of the arches will be cast on the shores of Maryland and Virginia and then barged for installation over the next three years as the outer beltway span of the bridge is built for a spring 2006 opening.
The Wilson bridge itself will cost $620 million. The majority of the $2.5 billion project is the spaghetti-like network of ramps and bridge upgrades over the project’s seven-mile length to the Telegraph Road, U.S. 1, Interstate 295 and Md. 210 interchanges.
The upgrades and extra lanes will get rid of the cause of congestion on the Wilson bridge: the 70 percent of the traffic that exits on one of the interchanges interweaving with through-traffic, Russell said.
When complete, the bridge will have six lanes in each direction, the sixth lane reserved for mass transit or HOV, then three local lanes and two express lanes.
The Wilson bridge project along with the $800 million Mixing Bowl project — a corridor that runs from Springfield all the way to the Md. 210 interchange — are expected to get rid of Interstate 95’s worst bottlenecks.
Staff writer Chris Newman can be reached at (703) 878-8062.