On a breezy springtime morning hundreds of guests gathered on the new northern span of the Woodrow Wilson Bridge to celebrate its completion. Commuters will remember the faithful old spans peculiarly unsettling wobbling sensation beneath their cars, as we held our breath while crossing to reach our jobs.
Local public officials were on hand to ring in the official completion of the new span, sitting on the VIP stand with some of the people responsible for this marvel of engineering. They were the recipients of the Outstanding Civil Engineers award from the American Society of Civil Engineers. One can easily see why: not only is the bridge a graceful sight with its curving supports, there is a wide, safe pedestrian and bicycle aisle built into each span. Moreover, although traffic constantly blew by us at a close distance on the southern span, our side did not feel the slightest tremble beneath our sandal-clad feet while we sat upon delicate white wooden folding banquet chairs.
To celebrate the completion of this 20-year project, elected officials arrived in a 1919 Pierce Arrow limousine, provided by the Woodrow Wilson Presidential Library in Staunton, Va., its horn honking cheerfully. Emerging from its glossy black carriage were Virginia Gov. Tim Kaine, Sen. John Warner, Maryland Gov. Martin OMalley and U.S. Secretary of Transportation Mary Peters.
A Marine platoon escorted the assembled crowd and an honor guard of junior reserve officers from Prince Georges County and Alexandria carried the colors. The T.C. Williams Marching Band provided music and song to accompany the festivities. The D.C. Air National Guard also provided a thrilling four-jet flyover northwards over the deck. Although the air shook beneath the engines thunderous vibrations, the new span stood firm beneath our feet.
Throughout the ceremony, grateful truckers breezing past on the southern span signaled their approval of the project by pulling their horns. After some congratulatory words to the workers (and taxpayers) by the publicly elected officials, there was a collective ribbon cutting. Officials from the Virginia Department of Transportation joined in cutting a second wide blue ribbon. Warner used a large construction wrench to turn the final bolt and officially complete the project. A hearty Warner invited the crowd to join him in counting down from five. As he turned the wrench, the eternally youthful Warner bellowed, Commuters, start your engines!
Afterwards, Coast Guard fireboats emerged northwards from beneath the span, firing their water cannons high into the air. As the water flared upward, the drawbridge lowered, absolutely silently, while we heard the sounds of a rousing God Bless America from the TC Williams band. It was a fitting tribute to the taxpayers on both sides of the river whose money got it done. This new work of engineering project will provide a faster, safer trip for all who need to cross the river, and would have made the modern-thinking Woodrow Wilson proud.