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14th Street bridges

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

14th Street bridges
14th Street Bridge.jpg
A November 2013 photo of the 14th Street bridges with Potomac Park, the Tidal Basin and Washington Channel in the background
Coordinates38°52′34″N 77°02′28″W / 38.876°N 77.041°W / 38.876; -77.041
Carries I-395 / US 1
WMATA Yellow.svg
Amtrak/VRE/CSX
CrossesPotomac River
LocaleWashington, D.C.
Other name(s)Long Bridge
Charles R. Fenwick Bridge
Arland D. Williams Jr. Memorial Bridge
Rochambeau Bridge
George Mason Memorial Bridge
History
Opened1904–1983

The 14th Street bridges refers to the three bridges near each other that cross the Potomac River, connecting Arlington, Virginia and Washington, D.C.. Sometimes the two nearby rail bridges are included as part of the 14th Street bridge complex. A major gateway for automotive, bicycle and rail traffic, the bridge complex is named for 14th Street (U.S. Route 1), which feeds automotive traffic into it on the D.C. end.

The complex contains three four-lane automobile bridges—one northbound, one southbound, and one bi-directional — that carry Interstate 395 (I-395) and U.S. Route 1 (US 1) traffic, as well as a bicycle and pedestrian lane on the southbound bridge.[1] In addition, the complex contains two rail bridges, one of which carries the Yellow Line of the Washington Metro; the other of which, the only mainline rail crossing of the Potomac River to Virginia, carries a CSX Transportation rail line. The five bridges, from west to east are the George Mason Memorial Bridge, the Rochambeau Bridge, the Arland D. Williams, Jr. Memorial Bridge, the Charles R. Fenwick Bridge and the Long Bridge.

At the north end of the bridges, in East Potomac Park, the three roadways connect to a pair of two-way bridges over the Washington Channel into downtown Washington, one connecting to traffic (including northbound US 1) north onto 14th Street, and the other connecting to I-395 traffic on the Southwest Freeway. The Metro line connects to a tunnel in the East Potomac Park, and the main line railroad from the Long Bridge passes over I-395 and runs over the Washington Channel just downstream of the 14th Street approach before turning northeast along the line of Maryland Avenue.

On January 13, 1982, 78 people were killed when Air Florida Flight 90 crashed into the northbound I-395 span of the 14th Street bridge during rush hour. The repaired span was renamed in honor of Arland D. Williams Jr., a passenger on the plane who survived the initial crash, but drowned after repeatedly passing a helicopter rescue line to other survivors.

YouTube Encyclopedic

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  • ✪ Fourteenth Street Bridge southbound
  • ✪ N E 14th St Bridge
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  • ✪ Southwest/Southeast Freeways (Interstates 395/695) north/eastbound
  • ✪ US-1 in Northern Virginia

Transcription

Contents

Bridges

Each of the complex's five bridge spans has its own name. From east to west, the bridges are:

A panoramic view including all five spans: George Mason and Rochambeau Bridges (left background), Williams Bridge (left foreground), Fenwick Bridge (right foreground), and Long Bridge (right background)

History

Washington Bridge

1818 map shows the Washington Bridge, here labeled the "Potomac Bridge," between the words "Potomac" and "River".
1818 map shows the Washington Bridge, here labeled the "Potomac Bridge," between the words "Potomac" and "River".

The first bridge at the site was the Washington Bridge, a wooden toll bridge opened on May 20, 1809, by the Washington Bridge Company which had been authorized to build a bridge by the District Commissioners in February of 1808 with the purpose of shortening the distance in the country's main mail route.[7] Though it opened on May 20th, it wouldn't be completed for a few days.[8][9] It was the second bridge to cross the Potomac in the District of Columbia, following a 1797 span at a narrower crossing near Little Falls, upstream of Georgetown, at the site of the present Chain Bridge. At the time it opened, and in official documents, it was referred to as Washington Bridge, Potomac Bridge or simply "the Bridge" but by the 1830's it began to be called the "long Bridge across the Potomac" to distinguish it from the bridge near Little Falls.[10][11] Over time, the colloquial name was shortened to just "Long Bridge".

British forces leaving the Battle of Bladensburg during the War of 1812 set fire to the north end of the bridge on August 25, 1814, and American troops burned the south end. The bridge was rebuilt by 1816. Over the subsequent years, the bridge was damaged many times by floods and ice freshets, most notable on February 22, 1831 when several spans were damaged by an ice flow.[2] The bridge closure bankrupted the company and so the next year Congress purchased the bridge and paid to repair it.[12] It reopened on October 30, 1835 with new solid causeways that were 7 feet high and draws that were 66 feet wide.[7]

In 1847, the retrocession of the Virginia portion of the District of Columbia was completed, and the south approach of the bridge became part of Virginia.

Union Army troops crossing Long Bridge, 1861
Union Army troops crossing Long Bridge, 1861

With the outbreak of the American Civil War in 1861, the bridge became militarily important. Union troops occupied the bridge on May 24, and the Orange and Alexandria Railroad soon became a major center for the United States Military Railroad Construction Corps. Rails had been built to the bridge from the Washington side in 1855 and from the Virginia side in 1857, but there weren't placed on the bridge until the Civil War.[13] At the direction of the military in early 1862, new tracks were laid for the approaches, the rail bed was repaired and tracks were laid across the bridge. The new connection opened on February 9, 1862.[14]

In 1864, a new bridge was built adjacent to the original bridge. When the U.S. Military railroad Charles Minot fell through one of the spans of the old bridge on February 18, 1865, the rails were moved to the new bridge and the old bridge became used for non-rail traffic only, as had been recommended in the prior year.[14][15][16] The old bridge became the "turnpike bridge" and the new one the "railroad bridge."[17]

An October 1, 1870 flood damaged the bridge beyond repair, with much of the causeway, wooden superstructure and spans carried away.[17] Prior to the flood, in June, Congress had given the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Company the rights to the bridge and to connect their rail to it, on the condition that they maintain it.[7] Immediately following the flood they chose to build a replacement bridge which they worked on from November 1870 to early 1872, and by late 1871 the causeway and other structures of the original bridge were removed to make room for it.[18][7]

Railroad Bridge

On July 23, 1864, a new, stronger bridge, built by the Washington, Alexandria and Georgetown Railroad Company was completed about 100 feet (30 m) downriver. Work on the 5,104 foot bridge began in June 1863 and built a bridge with 203 spans and two 82 foot long draws. It didn't have rail on it when completed and wasn't open.[19][20] On February 18, 1865, the U.S. Military railroad engine Charles Minot was crossing the old bridge when its weight caused the span to fail. The failure was such that the military decided it was easier and important enough to take possession of the new bridge and install rail on it than repair the old one.[14]

The new bridge opened on February 21, 1865 and carried only railroad traffic. The old one was kept for other traffic. On November 15, 1865, with the end of the war, the U.S. Military Railroad gave the bridge to the U.S. Department of the Interior and the new bridge became part of the Washington, Alexandria and Georgetown Railroad, leased by the B&O.[14]

Sometimes the two bridges were referred to separately as the Long Bridge and the railroad bridge and at others as two parts of one "Long Bridge".[21]

Like the old Washington Bridge, the Railroad Bridge was damaged in the 1870 flood. It was partially repaired and continued to be used until May 14, 1872, when the new bridge was in working order.[22] It was then removed in late 1872.[23]

1872 Long Bridge

An October 1, 1870 flood damaged the existing bridges beyond repair, with much of the causeway, wooden superstructure and spans carried away.[17] Prior to the flood, the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad Company had been given the rights to the bridges on the condition that they maintain them.[7] Immediately following the flood they chose to build a replacement bridge which they worked on from November 1870 until it opened on May 15, 1872. The day the new bridge opened, the old railroad bridge, which had been partially repaired, was closed.[24][25] The new bridge was 36 feet wide with both a carriageway and a railway, 9 feet above the water, and nearly a mile long with solid abutments built of sandstone from Freestone Point and blue gneiss from the quarries above Georgetown. The draws were 61 feet and 96 feet long. The bridge had three parts, a 700 foot long bridge over the Washington Channel, a 2,000 foot-long bridge over the Virginia Channel and a 1,980 foot long earth causeway between masonry walls on the flats between the channels.[7][26]

On July 2, the Alexandria and Fredericksburg Railway opened, providing the first direct all-rail connection between the north and Richmond, Virginia.[27]

Despite the new design, the 1872 bridge continued to be damaged by freshets, it blocked river traffic and was not wide enough for two tracks.[26] Within 30 years, the railroad and regional leaders began making plans for a replacement.

In 1901, trackage rights over the bridge were obtained by the Richmond, Fredericksburg and Potomac Railroad, a bridge line owned equally by six companies including the PRR and B&O (which obtained trackage rights over the PRR to reach the bridge on July 1, 1904).

A new railroad bridge was constructed in 1904 and with completion of the Highway Bridge in December of 1906, the 1872 bridge became obsolete. The bridge was closed on December 18, 1906 and demolition began on January 26, 1907.[28][29][30] On December 3, 1907 demolition was completed when markers were placed on the remaining underwater piles of riprap and piers.[31]

1904 Railroad Bridge (Long Bridge)

Highway Bridge (left) and Long Bridge in 1919
Highway Bridge (left) and Long Bridge in 1919
Arial view of the 14th Street Bridges in 1965, with the old Highway Bridge still in place.
Arial view of the 14th Street Bridges in 1965, with the old Highway Bridge still in place.

In 1899, the Pennsylvania Railroad, owner of the Baltimore and Potomac Railroad (B&P) Company and thus the bridge, began to push Congress to authorize a replacement of the 1872 Long Bridge with one that would eliminate some of its well-documented problems. They wanted one high enough for sailing vessels to pass beneath, that could serve multiple carriers and end the problems caused by freshets. They also wanted a second bridge for non-rail traffic. The new bridge they proposed would enter the city on a viaduct and, with a tunnel under Virginia Avenue, eliminate all grade-crossings as well as connect to a new Union Station.[32] A February 12, 1901 act of Congress authorized the construction of the new double-track railroad bridge and an adjacent Highway Bridge.[33] In April of that year the B&P submitted plans for the railroad bridge to the Secretary of War and the board of engineers overseeing the project which were approved later that year.[34][35]

Work on the new Railroad Bridge, a Pratt through-truss swing bridge, began in the spring of 1902, cost $750,000 and lasted more than 2 years.[36] The new bridge opened on August 28, 1904, about 150 feet (45 m) upriver from the old bridge.[37][2] The two-track bridge contained girders recycled from the PRR's Lower Trenton Bridge across the Delaware River and was painted a bright red.[2][38][39] It was 2528.5 feet long (about 450 feet longer than the 1872 Bridge), consisted of eleven spans on twelve stone piers and sat 27 feet above the water line. It created a wider channel, 100 feet wide, on both sides of the pivot than the old bridge did.[37] In the early years, the bridge was often referred to as the "Railroad Bridge" to distinguish it from "Highway Bridge". It was also sometimes known as the "14th Street Railroad Bridge". It wasn't until the 1980's, during planning of the Virginia Railway Express (VRE) system, that the railroad bridge again began to be called by the old "Long Bridge" name. VRE began using the bridge in 1992.

In 1941 the Philadelphia, Baltimore and Washington Railroad, created in 1902 by a merger of the B&P and Philadelphia, Wilmington and Baltimore and thus the owner, began planning to reconstruct the bridge. They sought to build 11 new supplemental piers between the original truss spans and replacing the iron and steel truss spans with steel plate girders.[40] Work on bridge reconstruction began in mid-1942 and completed on November 9, 1943. It allowed heavily loaded trains to cross at 45 mph, whereas before they were limited to 15 mph for freight and 20 mph for passenger trains.[41] The through-truss swing span was retained.

In 1955, the Commerce Department performed a study of Washington, DC area drawbridges and determined that the cost and inconvenience of maintaining the draw bridges was not worth the advantages of keeping the river navigable. The three bridges at 14th Street opened only 315 times in 1954 and cost $270,000 to operate and maintain, while also causing traffic tie-ups.[42] Later that year, the Army Corps of Engineers, decided that Potomac River bridges upstream of Hains Point would no longer require a lift or draw span and that once the Mason Bridge was completed, the existing draws would be sealed.[43] Construction of the Mason Bridge was completed in 1962 and the Long Bridge ceased opening except for a few exceptions. The last time it was opened was March of 1969 to allow barges used in the removal of the old Highway Bridge to pass through. The tender's control house, or shanty, on top of the draw remained - often used as a billboard for Georgetown crew races until it was removed in late 1982 or early 1983.[44]

Ownership of the bridge passed to Penn Central Railroad in 1968 when the Pennsylvania Railroad and its longtime rival New York Central Railroad merged. After Penn Central declared bankruptcy, the bridge was sold to the new Consolidated Rail Corporation (Conrail). In 1991, the RF&P was merged into CSX Transportation, which acquired the bridge itself in 1998, after the Conrail breakup.[citation needed]

In 2011 the District Department of Transportation (DDOT), in coordination with the Federal Railroad Administration (FRA), began a comprehensive study for the rehabilitation or replacement of the Long Bridge. After a series of phased studies, the determined that the bridge had inadequate capacity and redundancy. The bridge was rehabilitated in 2016 and CSX determined that it was sufficient to meet their freight needs, but in 2019 DDOT and FRA reported that a second bridge was needed to serve increased passenger rail needs. A third bridge was also proposed to create a new bicycle/pedestrian crossing.[45] In 2019, Virginia announced that they would pay to build a new rail bridge over the Potomac River north of the Long Bridge.[46]

Highway Bridge

Highway Bridge between 1906 and 1932
Looking towards Highway Bridge and Washington in 1932
Looking towards Highway Bridge and Washington in 1932

A new swing-span through-truss bridge called the Highway Bridge or sometimes the 14th Street Bridge, 500 feet (150 m) upriver from the Long Bridge, opened December 15, 1906, to serve streetcars and other non-railroad traffic.[28][47]

After the George Mason Bridge was opened in 1962, the Highway Bridge was closed, but there was considerable discussion of reusing the Highway Bridge, perhaps for rush hour only automobile traffic. Nonetheless, the Highway Bridge was finally removed from the site in 1967-1968,[48][49] and was taken to the Naval Surface Warfare Center, Dahlgren Division, for bombing practice.

In order to remove the Highway Bridge piers, the Williams and Long Bridges were opened for the last time on March 3, 1969. They were opened to remove barge and crane equipment that had been floated upriver in 1967 to remove the old Highway Bridge piers and install new center bridge piers. A few years prior to 1967, the railroad bridge had been welded shut, and in order to open it for the crane, that had to be reversed.[48]

Pontoon Bridge

On July 1, 1942, after two months of work, the War Department opened a pontoon bridge located between the Railroad and Highway bridges. It connected Ohio Drive, then Riverside Drive, to US Highway 1. The bridge was constructed of 30 plank covered pontoons with an asphalt coating for the 12 foot-wide floor. A fixed steel span on the Virginia side provided an opening 30 feet wide and 21 feet high for boats to pass under. Two more fixed spans carried it over the George Washington Parkway. The bridge was built for emergency movement of troops and though it was to allow for civilian use, it never did.[50] Once World War II was over, the bridge was removed in the summer of 1945.[51]

The 14th Street Bridge

The Arland D. Williams Jr. Memorial Bridge as seen from a Yellow Line train on the Washington Metro (Charles R. Fenwick Bridge).
The Arland D. Williams Jr. Memorial Bridge as seen from a Yellow Line train on the Washington Metro (Charles R. Fenwick Bridge).

Despite the different names of the Rochambeau, Mason and Williams bridge, and the fact that there were all built separately, the three are often called "The 14th Street Bridge" together.

Arland D. Williams, Jr. Memorial Bridge

Planning for a replacement of the Highway Bridge started in the 1940's to deal with expanded traffic in the automobile age.[52] Work on a new single-span, northbound-only 14th Street Bridge began on August 21, 1947 and the new bridge opened on May 8, 1950.[53][54] The Highway Bridge then became southbound-only, but a 2nd bridge was planned to replace it.[55] The new bridge span incorporated draw spans with a control houses that was designed to complement those on the Arlington Memorial Bridge upstream and on the railroad bridge's swing span downstream.

In 1956, whiled planning the Jones Point Bridge Congress began to debate what to name it. While one of the first suggestions was to name it after Woodrow Wilson, which eventually it was, Rep. Joel Broyhill (R-VA) suggested naming it for George Mason, or failing that naming the new Highway Bridge for him.[56] This prompted a letter to the editor of the Washington Post suggested it be named for revolutionary war hero Lafayette, since it was near that they he led soldiers across the river on the way to Yorktown.[57] A few days later, Charles Parmer a Rochambeau enthusiast and head of Virginia's short-lived Rochambeau Commission, suggested the bridge instead be named for Jean-Baptiste Donatien de Vimeur, comte de Rochambeau.[58][59] Another letter followed that suggested attaching the name Rochambeau instead to the 14th Street Bridge and that letter caught the attention of Congress member Harry F. Byrd of Virginia who submitted it to the Congressional Record.[60][61] Broyhill submitted a bill naming the bridge for Mason and Byrd submitted one nameing it for Rochambeau, and by the middle of summer a compromise had been worked out naming one span for each.[62] The new bridge was named the Rochambeau Bridge on October 19, 1958.[63]

The last time Williams Bridge was opened was on March 3, 1969 to remove barge and crane equipment that had been floated upriver in 1967 to remove the old Highway Bridge piers and install new center bridge piers.

The Williams bridge underwent extensive repair in 1975-1976 which resulted in a closure of more than a year. Workers gave the bridge a new deck, removed the bascule draw span and replaced the sidewalks with shoulders.[64] The control house remained.

On January 13, 1982, the Williams Bridge was damaged by the crash of Air Florida Flight 90. The Boeing 737-222, which had accumulated ice while idling on the runway at National Airport, stalled soon after takeoff, fell on the bridge, and slammed into the iced-over Potomac River. The crash killed 74 passengers and crew, plus four people in cars on the bridge. The repaired span was renamed the Arland D. Williams, Jr. Memorial Bridge on March 13, 1985 – following a December 4, 1984 vote – after one of the passengers, who passed a lifeline to five survivors before permitting himself to be rescued. He succumbed to hypothermia and drowned while rescuers worked to rescue the last of the survivors. The name Rochambeau Bridge was then shifted to the Center Highway Bridge.[65]

After a series of inspections from 2005 to 2009, the District of Columbia's District Department of Transportation (DDOT) began a $27 million rehabilitation of the northbound main span in 2010. Construction, scheduled to last only a few months, was finally completed in 2011.

A 2014 inspection found more problems. Citing the expense and the need to replace or repair several deficient bridges elsewhere in the District, DDOT pushed the date for fixing these problems to 2020.[66]

George Mason Memorial Bridge

The new George Mason Memorial Bridge opened upstream on January 26, 1962, replacing the old Highway Bridge (then southbound only).[67] The Mason Bridge, unlike the bridges upstream and downstream, could not open for river traffic, thus Potomac River traffic by sea-going vessels traveling above the Long Bridge ceased in 1961.

During the late 1960's, new ramps were constructed between the westbound Shirley Highway and the southbound George Washington Parkway and these eliminated the path between the bridge and the Pentagon. In 1969, the path was connected to the Arlington Memorial Bridge via the Lady Bird Trail and on April 15, 1972 it was connected to Alexandria via the Mount Vernon Trail, of which the Lady Bird Trail became part.

In 1984, the Mason Bridge was closed for several months for a $5.9 million overhaul. The bridge was resurfaced and widened to provide shoulders. The sidewalk was widened and new safety railings were installed between the walkway and the roadway.[68][69]

On July 25, 1989, the George Mason Bridge gained national notoriety as the scene of the 1989 DC Prostitute Expulsion.

In late 2018, the National Park Service rebuilt and improved the trail ramp between the George Mason Bridge path and East Basin Drive.[70]

Rochambeau Bridge

On April 5, 1971, a third bridge opened immediately downstream of the Mason Bridge, carrying two express lanes in each direction.[5][71] At the time it opened it was known as the Center Highway Bridge and was only open for bus traffic, making it the longest exclusive busway in the Country.[72] Work began in March of 1967, but wasn't completed until 1972.

The express lanes lead directly to the high-occupancy vehicle lanes on Virginia's section of I-395 (though the express lanes on this bridge are not HOV lanes themselves and are available to all traffic).

On March 13, 1985 the I-395 northbound bridge, then known as the Rochambeau Bridge, was renamed the Arland D. Williams, Jr. Memorial Bridge to honor one of the passengers who died saving the lives of other survivors during the January 13, 1982, Air Florida Flight 90 crash, and at the same time the Center Highway Bridge was renamed the Rochambeau Bridge. The bronze marker naming the bridge was not shifted to the Center Highway Bridge with the name.[73]

Charles R. Fenwick Bridge

The final bridge, the Charles R. Fenwick Bridge, carrying the Yellow Line, opened on April 30, 1983.[74][75] Based on the recommendation of Washington Post reporter Jack Eisen, the bridge was named for Fenwick by the Metro Board on September 22, 1983. Fenwick was a Virginia state legislature from the Washington suburbs who sponsored legislation to create Metro. He died in 1968.[76]

See also

References

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  73. ^ Eisen, Jack (December 23, 1983). "Honor for Hero Urged". The Washington Post. p. C2; Eisen, Jack (January 15, 1985). "Bridging a Dilemma". The Washington Post. p. B2.
  74. ^ Washington D.C. Chapter of the National Railway Historical Society. "Washington, D.C. Railroad History". Archived from the original on April 21, 2006. Retrieved April 26, 2006.
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  76. ^ Eisen, Jack (September 23, 1983). "A Regionalist Is Honored". The Washington Post.

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