Opinion: Letter To the Editor: What To Do Next Time?

Opinion: Letter To the Editor: What To Do Next Time?

Woodrow Wilson Bridge closing brings hours of gridlock.

— I know many of you who live, work and/or play in northern Mount Vernon were very frustrated by the Woodrow Wilson Bridge closure last week. I, myself, spent more than three hours getting home as a result of all the roadway issues. Many who experienced the delays commented that it was the worst traffic they have ever seen in the area.

First, thank you to all our first responders, who not only responded to a fatal vehicular accident, a fire, and a hazmat incident, but also a bridge maintenance crew suspended from the bridge requiring a water rescue. The complexity of this incident that involved four jurisdictions (Fairfax, Alexandria, Prince Georges and the District of Columbia), state police, multiple departments of transportation and almost 100 personnel, combined with the need to ensure the safety of all involved, as well as the need to inspect and ensure the bridge’s structural integrity prior to reopening the roadway, all played a role in the 12-hour closure.

With such a massive closure of a major thoroughfare, area streets were severely impacted during this time. Thank you to everyone who has contacted our office to inquire as to how this situation could be handled differently in the future. Fortunately, these massive incidents occur very infrequently in our area, but they do occur every few years. However, many experience traffic frustrations and back-ups on a regular basis.

I believe we need to do more to alleviate transportation challenges in Northern Virginia, even in the instance of unforeseen situations. I have reached out to our state elected officials, county and state transportation agencies and public safety officials to examine and determine ways to manage these situations to avoid the level of gridlock we experienced last week. I look forward to updating the community as these questions are answered and improvements identified.

We are grateful this situation was not worse and that eventually, all but one made it home safely. This is another reminder that transit options and flexibility are critically important to our transportation infrastructure, and therefore the quality of life in our region. As with all emergency preparedness, it is good to have planned alternative travel options in the event of future incidents and emergency evacuations.

Please continue to engage with our office, as we continue our efforts to improve roadway and transit in the Mount Vernon District.