D.C. Prepares for Bridge Shutdown
There's a lot of anxiety among commuters over the planned shutdown this summer of the Douglass Bridge, which brings them into downtown Washington from points south and east. Now the District has launched a program to help them find and finance alternative ways to reach work.
Modeled after a program used during the Woodrow Wilson Bridge construction, the District Department of Transportation's "Bridge Bucks" program will provide $50 per month toward transit fares and vanpool fees.
By providing financial resources and personal advice on transit services, the program enables individual commuters to utilize alternative travel options that best work for their particular lifestyle - whether via rail, bus or vanpool.
The launching of this program, designed to ease traffic congestion and travel times during the July and August shutdown of the South Capitol Street bridge over the Anacostia River, also cranks up the publicity campaign to make sure commuters are aware of the project and able to plan for its impact.
The need certainly is there: I've heard from many travelers who are concerned about how they'll get to work in the District or in Northern Virginia during the summer. They don't like the primary driving alternative of using the 11th Street Bridge. And there probably are plenty of people unaware of the summertime plan, even though DDOT began its publicity campaign early this year and has been shutting down bridge lanes on some weekends for prep work.
As the summer approaches, DDOT is starting a major outreach campaign to raise awareness, promote Bridge Bucks and commuting alternatives and recommend detour routes. You may hear radio ads targeting solo drivers and urging them to change the way they get to and from their jobs.
As for the Bridge Bucks, they are available to the first 1,500 qualified people who commute daily across the Douglass Bridge. You can use this link to reach the online enrollment form, or call 866-922-8257.
Applicants will be asked to provide their origin and destination addresses and specific commute route, and fax in copies of their driver's licenses. A Bridge Bucks representative will call the applicant to confirm eligibility and work out what transit option is best for the commute. Transit passes, schedules and maps will be mailed to the commuter.
Sounds like a pretty good deal: They help you work out an alternative commute for July and August and they subsidize it.
Why are they putting you through all this in the first place? The summertime project is huge. The District is trying to extend the lifetime of the half-century old bridge while changing the setup on the northern side (the downtown side). Engineers will lower that elevated roadway down to street level as part of a neighborhood improvement plan intended to knit the community together with at-grade intersections.
DDOT also will be paving and painting the entire bridge and improving the streetscape and lighting along South Capitol Street.
Other travel aides during the closure: Throughout the region, you'll see highway message signs listing the bridge closure and detours and more motorist assistance patrols, especially along the main detour routes, to help clear traffic incidents.
When we get details on bus schedule and route changes for the summer, I'll post them here on Get There.
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