2008 OCEA Winner

The Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project

Woodrow Wilson BridgeThe Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project is revitalizing a crossing that has impeded regional travel for decades. With new gossamer twin spans supported by gracefully curving V piers, the new bridge has been carrying traffic since 2006, and the second span is to open in the middle of this year. The structure, which crosses the Potomac River just south of Washington, D.C., linking Maryland and Virginia, has already improved traffic flow by providing shoulders for vehicle breakdowns and requiring fewer openings of its drawspans. Under construction since late 2000, the $2.47-billion program has remained on schedule and on budget.


The project involved much more than replacing a bridge: it rebuilt almost 12 percent of the Capital Beltway—the ring road around Washington, D.C. — and reconstructed four interchanges in its 7.5 mi (12km) corridor.


A high-tech marvel, the new Woodrow Wilson Bridge features eight massive bascule leaves, each with a deck encompassing at least 11,800 sq ft. The most striking innovations include employing movable falsework for the bascule piers; using carbon dioxide to neutralize concrete wash water and then reusing the water to promote the settlement of dust; and adapting an epoxy gel method to seal posttensioning ducts. Future projects will no doubt use the specifications for the “contained bubble curtain” developed as part of this project to protect fish from the effects of pile driving. Using the old bridge as a trestle for the Capital Beltway’s inner loop saved six acres of dredging, preserving fragile underwater vegetation.


Dividing the superstructure bid package into thirds, along with value engineering and the prequalification of contractors, saved $362 million. Reducing delays from gridlock will save commuters countless hours, speed truck commerce and spur local economic growth.