August 22, 2002
Listen. Silence can be golden. Residents up and down the Potomac, from Alexandria to Mount Vernon, now know this first hand. Because on July 30, at 4:25 p.m., the entire area was overcome with silence. That was when the Woodrow Wilson Bridge pile driving ceased.
"The final hammer strike for the last pile for the foundations contract occurred at that time," according to John R. Undeland, Public Affairs Director, Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project. "There will be some additional pile driving during the course of the project. But, none will be as massive or as constant as have been driven since July 2001.
"Concrete piles will be driven on land which are much quieter and some steel piles will be placed in the river for the fendering system near the draw span," Undeland explained. "None will approach the size of those just finished. They were 210 feet long and weighed 90 tons. By contrast the future Jones Point concrete piles will be only 45 feet long."
There are three more areas where bridge piles need to be driven, Undeland said. "The steel fender piles will be driven in January and February next year. The concrete piles, approximately two feet square, will be driven about 2006. And, the abutment piles are at least a year off," he clarified.
Fender piles are put in place to thwart a collision with the bridge by river traffic. They are designed to prevent a collapse as experienced on the Arkansas River earlier this year.
THE NEW BRIDGE will align with the existing span at the abutment on the Virginia side where it becomes the highway. It then angles south as it approaches the Maryland side. This is evidenced by the fact that the pedestals increase from two to four as they approach the water from Alexandria, Undeland explained.
Since the pile driving began last year, 1,050 have been driven. Of that total, 650 were steel piles. Their placement resonated the most throughout the area. At the height of the operation pounding could be heard throughout Old Town and into the Mount Vernon area.
Undeland further noted that no decisions have been reached as to the future use of land under the bridge. "The threat assessment is still under joint discussions with the city, the two states and the federal government," he said.