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Last Of Old Wilson Bridge Disappears December 4

Bridge walk scheduled to follow May dedication ceremony

As of Dec. 4, the entire old Woodrow Wilson Bridge will be only a memory or snap shots in a photo album. Demolition of the remaining span on the Maryland side will fall into the Potomac River early Tuesday morning.

"The debris will be loaded on a barge and taken to the Chesapeake Bay where it will once again be used to create a fish habitat," Alexander E. Lee, manager of community relations for the Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project, told members of the WWB Neighborhood Task Force Monday night during their meeting in the Sister Cities Room at Alexandria City Hall.

Since this demolition is all over water and well to the Maryland side of the river, there should be little or no disturbance to Alexandria residents, according to Lee. "Some residents may hear a slight series of detonations between 2 a.m. and 4 a.m. But we not expecting anything major," Lee said.

For safety reasons, both the Outer and Inner loops of the Capital Beltway will be closed for approximately 30 minutes during the time of the demolition. "There will also be a no fly-over for the same amount of time. This should not affect any aircraft because it will be the middle of the night," he said.

Another element of the bridge project will also impact traffic from Friday night to early Saturday morning. During that time, northbound traffic on Telegraph Road passing under the Beltway will be prohibited due to work on a water line, according to Lee.

The reconstruction of Telegraph Road, the final phase of the overall WWB Project, remains on schedule to begin in March of 2008. "We hope to award the contract for this phase on or about Dec. 19," Lee told Task Force members.

Also next spring, construction is scheduled to commence on the Freedmen's Cemetery Memorial, according to Emily Baker, city engineer for the Transportation & Environmental Service Administration. Start time is now set for April.

Alexandria Mayor William D. Eullie, who co-chairs the Task Force with City Councilman Paul Smedberg, suggested that the City look into the possibility of having lights installed on the new bridge's arches to make it more attractive at night.

"This was suggested to me by several residents and I thought it was a good idea. I don't know what it would take. But, I believe it's worth looking into," he said.

ONE ELEMENT of the project that drew criticism from several task force members was the "urban deck" over the Beltway at the South end of Washington St. There were complaints about both "unattractive" plantings and the fact that there were no benches as had been planned. Task force members agreed the plantings were so unattractive they almost seemed to defeat the purpose of the deck as an urban park type setting.

"We were also supposed to have benches there for people to relax. It's very hard for older people to walk back and forth across the deck having no place to sit and rest," said task force member Teresa Miller.

Aimee Vosper, landscape architect supervisor for Alexandria Recreation, Parks & Cultural Activities Department, explained that the deck's step walls were designed to serve as seating areas. However, as Miller pointed out, these are hard to navigate and uncomfortable for older citizens.

"It's news to me that there are no benches," Euille said.

Vosper said that she would look into the lack of benches and the lack of attractive planting. However, she explained, the time of year and lack of rainfall has negatively impacted the appearance of the plantings.

Upon completion of the inner-loop portion of the new bridge there will be a dedication ceremony, now scheduled for May 15, 2008. Similar to the one held for the opening of the first span on the Virginia side, this ceremony will be held on the Maryland side of the bridge. Three days later, Sunday, May 18, a bridge walk from Maryland to Virginia is scheduled to be held .

However, even after the Inner Loop span dedication, there will be several months work before both spans are fully operational, according to Lee.

The full opening of the Inner Loop span will probably not occur until late summer of 2008. This dual opening procedure also occurred when the Outer Loop span was completed.