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New bridges hope to better connect I-295, Freeway

Friday - 4/24/2009, 1:36pm  ET

bridges
(Image courtesy of DDOT)
Adam Tuss, wtop.com

WASHINGTON -- Three new bridges about to be built in the D.C. area could have a dramatic impact on your commute. The bridges are the new 11th Street Bridges in the District.

The biggest transportation improvement the bridges are expected to provide is better connectivity between I-295 and the Southeast-Southwest Freeway. Right now, traffic headed south on I-295 cannot take a specific exit to access the Freeway, and traffic coming across the 11th Street Bridge cannot take a ramp to go north on I-295.

"They were connections that were never finished basically in the 70's," says DDOT Director Gabe Klein. "It is going to relieve a great deal of frustrating traffic for folks that are coming in from Maryland and Virginia."

The project will create two new highway bridges that complete those unfinished connections, and there will also be a separate, local 11th Street Bridge that allows residents to get from one side of the Anacostia River to the other.

"We are separating that traffic, and you create a safe connection for people on their bikes, or people who want to walk from Anacostia to Capitol Hill," Klein says.

The local 11th Street Bridge will also provide a link for the D.C. Streetcar program as it runs from Anacostia to Capitol Hill.

Some residents have voiced concerns about the local bridge creating new traffic patterns in the neighborhoods around the bridges. Klein says that won't be an issue.

"Based on the analysis that we have, we don't feel like that's true at all. I think what you will see is less sitting in traffic, less congestion and less overall emissions."

The heavy lifting on the project is expected to start in August. But because brand new bridges are being built, the existing 11th Street Bridges will continue to operate while construction takes place -- similar to how the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project progressed.

The finished bridges are expected to open in 2013.

The project will cost $300 million and is being paid for with a mix of local and federal funds.

The existing 11th Street Bridges are considered structurally deficient, and need to be replaced. They are not considered unsafe however.

(Copyright 2009 by WTOP. All Rights Reserved.)