Road relief now in sight


Motorists on northbound Telegraph Road experience their own version of the dreaded mixing bowl, when traffic trying to get on Eisenhower Avenue mixes with traffic coming off the inner loop of the beltway and other motorists trying to get to Old Town or Duke Street through this corridor.

In August, the Virginia Department of Transportation is putting the Telegraph Road interchange project up for bid, which takes traffic away from that area with bridges and overpasses, incorporating several grade separations, making life easier for motorists, bicyclists and pedestrians alike.

Construction is scheduled to begin in the spring of 2008 and be finished in 2011, at an estimated price tag of $170-185 million, making it the most expensive single-bid project in the VDOT arsenal. The Telegraph Road interchange is part of the whole $2.4 billion Woodrow Wilson Bridge Project, but will only use one contractor for the whole project.

Michelle Holland, the public affairs manager for Potomac Crossing Consultants working with VDOT on the Woodrow Wilson Bridge project, said she knows what motorists go through in the mini-mixing bowl area. Its very tricky, our goal is to improve that, she said.

When completed, motorists on northbound Telegraph Road trying to get to Eisenhower Avenue will turn on to an overpass back before Huntington Avenue, go over I-95/I-495, skirt the edge of the Holiday Inn parking lot, and come out at the intersection of Eisenhower and Stovall Ave., right in front of the Hoffman Building.

Motorists on southbound Telegraph Road trying to access Huntington Avenue and North Kings Highway will exit to the right, go around a half loop and cross over Telegraph, eliminating two of the longest lights in the area and several multi-lane merges that are in place now. The grade separation, which is a big undertaking, may be an early action item, said community relations manager Alex Lee.

Currently, under a VDOT rating system, the grade separation will improve the intersection at Huntington from an F to a B in the afternoons, and from an F to a B in the morning at North Kings Highway, and a D to a B in the afternoon. Years ago, Gerry Connolly, the Fairfax County Chairman of the Board of Supervisors, suggested this grade separation instead of a cheaper quick-fix at the intersection.

Other parts of the interchange include an additional lane on the inner loop of the beltway all the way up to the Eisenhower Avenue exit, before it tapers back down to four lanes, and a bicycle-pedestrian lane on the overpass that connects to Eisenhower Avenue. The bicyclists and pedestrians will be separated by a concrete barrier, said Holland. This will help those going to the movies at the Hoffman Multiplex Theater.

None of this will happen without growing pains that include lane closures and detours. Adequate signage and community outreach are big factors to communicate the current construction. There will be lots of advanced signing, said Holland, adding that, as with all road projects, theres an adjustment period. Beltway lane closures will only be in effect during off-peak hour travel times.