Two years into construction, Wilson Bridge project activity to accelerate

Construction of the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge, which will connect Maryland and Virginia along I-95 on the Capital Beltway, is a year behind schedule, but the project will soon swing into high gear with $800 million in contracts to be awarded between now and next October.

This month marks two years of construction on the 7.5-mile project. The undertaking includes building the massive bridge and roadways in Virginia, Maryland and Washington, D.C. The project will include more than 30 separate contracts. The $800 million in contracts to be awarded in the coming year is more than three times the value of contracts in progress or already finished.

“The Wilson Bridge project is the World Series of transportation construction,” said Parker Williams, administrator of the Maryland State Highway Administration.

The Maryland and Virginia transportation agencies, the Federal Highway Administration and the District of Columbia Department of Transportation are sponsoring the $2.44 billion project.

The first span of the new bridge was supposed to open at the end of 2004, but the target date is now the end of 2005 or early 2006. The current bridge is 40 years old and was built to handle 75,000 vehicles a day, but is now carrying about 200,000.

One of the reasons the project is behind schedule is because bidding for the bridge superstructure produced only one offer for $860 million – 75 percent more than estimates. Maryland officials refused the bid and construction managers split the work into three contracts, one for each of the twin spans and one for the draw spans where they will meet. Bids on the draw span are due Nov. 7, but bids on the twin spans aren’t due until next year.

“We’re just rounding first base in terms of construction activity,” said Ronaldo Nicholson, project manager for the Virginia Department of Transportation.

Still, a lot of work has taken place since construction began Oct. 19, 2000.

Workers have dredged a construction channel for the bridge, removed 330,000 cubic yards of river mud and have almost completed driving 1,039 piles to support the new bridge.

Projects underway include stabilizing soil conditions in Virginia and Maryland to support the expansion of the Capital Beltway, rebuilding ramps and overpasses connecting Interstate 295 with MD 210, demolishing buildings in the path of the new roadway and seven environmental mitigation projects.

Major construction projects to be awarded by October 2003 are: