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New Bridges Ease Traffic On Congested Beltway

Springfield, VA - August 3, 2001 Driving through one of the nation’s busiest stretches of roadway just got easier, thanks to three new bridges in a Washington, D.C.-area highway intersection known locally as the Mixing Bowl.

The bridges, which opened today, are part of a project involving Bechtel to improve the Springfield Interchange, a section of the Capital Beltway in northern Virginia where several highways converge. Each day, some 430,000 vehicles pass through the interchange, which serves as a key artery for commuters as well as truckers along the Eastern seaboard.
The new Commerce Street Bridge in downtown Springfield and two bridges connecting Old Keene Mill Road to Interstate 95 are part of the first phase of the overall project, a massive undertaking that includes building 52 bridges, 41 miles (66 kilometers) of roadway, and widening the highway in some places to 24 lanes.

Bechtel is managing construction of the project under contract with the Virginia Department of Transportation, and so far construction has been consistently seven months ahead of schedule. Begun in the spring of 1999, the four-phase project is expected to be completed in 2007. Phase 1 is slated for completion in November.

During a ceremony to christen the bridges on Thursday, Virginia Governor James Gilmore said, “This is one of the great works of the modern world—a monument to the engineering capacity of man for years and years to come.”

In a Washington Post story today, local business leaders and elected officials said the project had avoided problems, including traffic snarls, that some critics had predicted. The president-elect of the Springfield Chamber of Commerce, Alan Norris, said the construction had been a boon to companies he represents.

“I think it’s going extremely well, especially considering the volume of traffic we’ve had to work around,” said Bechtel Project Manager Jorge Martinez. He noted that in  remarks prior to the opening, the governor commented that traffic flowed better during construction of the bridges than before construction began. “That’s unique,” said Martinez.