Just before voters in Northern Virginia went to the polls to say yea or nay to the proposed sales tax referendum to fund transportation needs, the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project had announced that seven large construction contracts will be let by October 2003, totaling more than $800 million.
That's more than three times the $240 million in contracts now in progress or already let, according to project officials. When completed the 7.5 mile project will cost $2.44 billion or approximately $325.3 million per mile.
"The Wilson Bridge Project is the World Series of transportation construction," said Parker F. Williams, administrator of the Maryland State Highway Administration. "And we're just rounding first base in terms of construction activity," added Ronaldo "Nick" Nicholson, project manager for the Virginia Department of Transportation.
Ultimately, more than 30 separate contracts are planned. Coordinating the massive project, which involves both states, the District of Columbia, and the federal government, in a budget and schedule driven manner is essential because several contractors must work concurrently to meet simultaneous completion dates, according to John Undeland, the project's public affairs director.
Major construction work to be awarded in the next 12 months includes:
* Superstructure/Drawbridge: Construct piers and movable bascule spans. Estimated cost: $140 to $170 million. Contract to be let fourth quarter 2002. Construction starting first quarter 2003.
* Superstructure/Virginia Approach: Construct bridge spans approaching the bascule from the Virginia abutment. Because the drawspan is located near the Virginia shore, this work is primarily over land. Estimated cost: $130 to $160 million. Contract to be let first quarter 2003. Construction starting second quarter 2003.
* Superstructure/Maryland Approach: Construct bridge spans approaching the drawbridge from the Maryland abutment. Involves mainly marine construction work. No estimate contract lettings available at this time. Contract to be let second quarter 2003. Construction starting third quarter 2003.
VIRGINIA LANDSIDE (VDOT)—
* Beltway Tie-in: Align existing Virginia Beltway and Route 1 interchange with the new bridge that will be south of the existing bridge. Estimated cost: $55 to $65 million. Contract to be let fourth quarter 2002. Construction to start early 2003.
* Route 1 Bridges: Construct raised structures for Beltway and ramps on southern portion of Route 1 interchange. Estimated cost: $40 to $50 million. Contract to be let second quarter 2003. Construction to start summer 2003.
* Route 1 Interchange: Rebuild main portion of interchange. Largest Virginia contract associated with the project. Estimated cost: $170 to $200 million. Contract to be let third quarter 2003. Construction to start fourth quarter 2003.
(Maryland State Highway Administration)—
* I-295 Interchange Southern Ramps and Outer Loop: Align Beltway and I-295 interchange with new bridge. Widen Beltway and provide new access to planned recreation/retail/business development to the south. No estimate cost at this time. Contract to be let fourth quarter 2002. Construction to start first quarter 2003.
The first of the twin bridges is planned for completion in late 2005 or early 2006, according to time estimates. After traffic is moved onto the first bridge, the existing bridge will be demolished as part of the marine phase contracts. The second new bridge is slated for completion in late 2007 or early 2008.
The original construction began on October 19, 2000, with the dredging of a construction channel. During the following four months, more than 330,000 cubic yards of river mud were removed.
On July 2, 2001, the first of 1,039 piles was driven. The $125 million contract for building bridge foundations is now 85 percent complete, Undeland verified. Other elements of the project now underway include: stabilizing soil conditions in Virginia and Maryland to support the expansion of the Beltway is nearly half finished; rebuilding ramps and overpasses connecting I-295 and MD 210 costing $45 million has reached the halfway point; demolition of buildings and garages at Hunting Towers, Hunting Terrace, and the office complex on South Washington Street is now underway. The Hunting Tower building is scheduled for demolition in November and seven environmental mitigation contracts are now underway with three more to follow. Designed to compensate for construction impacts, they include river grass planting, wetlands creation, woodland plantings, and fish passage restoration. Substantial habitat preservation work for bald eagles and other species is included.