1995 an open-and-shut case
Toll road debuts, Pennsylvania Ave. closes, work continues.
For many, 1995 will be remembered as the year Pennsylvania Avenue
was closed in front of the White House, a private toll road
opened in Virginia and immediately lost money, and several public
road projects moved closer to completion.
Also, for the first time in two years, the District undertook
new road projects. Strapped for cash, the city had been unable
to pay a matching share to get federal money, but Congress made
an exception and permitted the city to pay back the money at a
That allowed the city to start rebuilding New York Avenue
NE, North Capitol Street and Whitehurst Freeway.
Meanwhile, two city bridges were rehabilitated -- the Sousa
Bridge, which canies Pennsylvania Avenue over the Anacostia
River, and the Taft Bridge, which carries Connecticut Avenue over
Perhaps the most widely observed road opening in the country
occurred in September, when the Duiles Greenway opened between
Leesburg and the Dulles Toll Road.
The 14-miie toll road, which charges a one-way fee of $1.75,
was the first privateiy built highway to open in more than 100
years -- when it was common for private enterprise to build toll
But the Greenway is suffering financially. The road is averaging
10,500 vehicles a day, but officials say the road must average
33,000 vehicles daily by next fall for the company to make its
loan payments without investors having to dip into their own
pockets. The road cost $236 million to build.
It's a joy to drive on though, and ought to be a model for
future highways, whether they built with public or private
It's fitting the biggest D.C. traffic story occurred where
most of the other biggest D.C. stories occur -- at the White
On May 20th, shortly after the bombing of a federal building in
Oaklahoma, the Secret Service, with President Clinton's go-ahead,
abruptly closed Pennsylvania Avenue between 15th and 17th
The expected traffic jams didn't materialize, as many drivers
simply avoided the entire White House area. Pedestrians didn't
know exactly what to make of the open street, and for a few days
continued to use crdoswalks to get from Lafayette Park to the
In-line skaters, runners, and skateboarders soon found out
about the empty stretch of asphalt and made good use of it.
City officials helped drivers nagivate around what was once
a major city thoroughfare. They made I Street one-way westbound
-- opposite from the course it ran before -- from New York Avenue
to Pennsylvania Avenue. A block south, H Street traffic began to
run oneway eastbound.
In Montgomery County, traffic routinely backed up at the
two spurs connecting Interstates 495 and 270. Both spurs
are being widened, so relief is coming in about a year, but the
construction has increased anxiety for downtown commuters living
in Rockville and points north.
In Northern Virginia, workers neared completion of the widening
of lnterstate 95, south of Springfield and north of Quantico,
after more than five years of work. Crews hope to finish the
19-mile project in mid-1997.
On Friday, they opened the four-mile stretch from the Occoquan
River to Opitz Boulevard.
For two years, construction crews have built additional carpool
lanes on Interstate 66, from Route 50 to Route 234. Part of that
project was completed Dec. 21, and the rest will be completed by
Also, six miles of the Fairfax County Parkway opened from I66 to
Route 123, and key parkway interchanges opened at Route 29, Route
50 and Frontier Drive.
Between the two states, over the Potomac River, there also
was progress. It just wasn't too visible.
A panel of regional officials moved closer toward deciding
what will replace the 34-year-old Woodrow Wilson Bridge, a
drawbridge that carries I-495 and I-95 over the Potomac River
between Alexandria and Oxon Hill.
The panel is seriously considering building another drawbridge
20 feet higher than the existing bridge. It also is considering
the construction of two tunnels and a high fixed-span bridge that
ships could pass beneath without stopping traffic.
Part of the money to pay for the new bridge or tunnels, it
appears, would come from tolls.
Pennsylvania Ave. Closure || Peace Park