It’s going to be a noisy summer for residents of the southeastern quadrant of Old Town. That’s when demolition of the present Woodrow Wilson Bridge will begin — “no later than late July.”
That was the prediction of Robert D. Douglas, director, Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project, Maryland Department of Transportation, to the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Neighborhood Task Force last Thursday night in the City Council Workroom at City Hall. “As soon as we switch traffic over to the new span we intend to start demolition immediately,” he said. That traffic switch is presently scheduled to commence the first week of June and be complete by the end of July, according to Douglas.
“Demolition will start on the Virginia side. The bridge over the river will remain in place for another 18 months,” Douglas said.
However, the main concern during the demolition process is hauling the debris away. This will be done by trucks which were supposed to travel from the bridge area to Washington Street via South Street. That is now questionable, according to Douglas and Alex Lee, community relations, WWB Project, Potomac Crossing Consultants.
“Our main concern is how the demolition debris is going to be hauled away,” said Alexandria Mayor William Euille who serves as co-chair of the Task Force with City Councilman Andrew Macdonald. He suggested that a representative of the contracting firm responsible for the demolition be present at future Task Force meetings.
Macdonald asked Douglas for a comparison of the number of trucks needed for this upcoming demolition project to that needed for the demolition of the Hunting Tower building. Douglas said he could not make that comparison at this juncture. Macdonald also asked why it was not feasible for the debris to be transported by barge rather than by trucks. Douglas maintained that it was a question of getting the barges in and out of the shoreline.
However, he did concede that when that portion of the bridge spanning the river is demolished “it probably will be transported by barge.” Those elements will be loaded onto barges by cranes, according to Douglas.
“In 2003 we met with Maryland representatives and requested that the old bridge be removed by barge. It is now my understanding that there will be a period when the contractors will not be able to use South Street and will have to use the existing haul routes,” said Richard Baier, director, Alexandria Department of Transportation & Environmental Services.
“We hope to have a very detailed plan ready in the next several weeks on how the hauling will take place,” said Eric Glibbery, project manager, Granite Construction Co., the firm that will be razing the old bridge.
“We would strongly urge you to have all material leave via South Street. We are less than two months away from this and people are getting antsy,” Baier said.
“I have also noticed that some large trucks presently working at the project are not keeping to the haul routes. Some of these rouge drivers are using Green Street. That is dangerous,” he said.
One resident noted that trucks using the designated haul route are causing cracks in her home due to concussion. With trucks carrying much more weight from parts of the demolished bridge the fear is that such property damage will increase if they don’t use the South Street route.
IT WAS ALSO ANNOUNCED that traffic on South Washington Street will again be switched. “We are planning the switch to work on the northeast section of the span crossing the Beltway,” Lee explained.
This will also require a shift in pedestrian traffic.
“At what point can the Police Department be notified of these pedestrian changes?” Euille asked. Baier replied that his department sends “regular notices to the Police Department when a change is going to take place.”
Euille acknowledgedthat Officer Paul Story will be attending Task Force meetings as Police Department liaison. This will enable the department to be knowledgeable of any planned traffic patterns as well as citizen complaints pertaining to the bridge project.
Reporting on the monthly meeting attended by himself, the Vice Mayor and City Manager with the project team, Euille addressed the impending closure of Jones Point Road during bridge demolition. “Their plans have not firmed up at this point. They said they would come to the Task Force and explain the security perimeter when it has been established,” Euille told the group.