The bridge, the only one in the nation that is federally owned, is a key component of Interstate 95, a major East Coast corridor. The existing bridge would have to be closed to truck traffic in several years because of structural deficiencies. That, plus an expected increase in bridge traffic, led planners to propose a replacement bridge over the Potomac River.
However, bridge planners have faced legal challenges. Last Friday, the U.S. Federal Circuit Court for the District of Columbia reversed a lower court ruling this summer that had sent Wilson Bridge planners back to the drawing board for failing to consider 10-lane alternatives to the proposed 12-lane replacement bridge. The three-judge panel disagreed with the earlier ruling. Fewer lanes would not meet I-95 and DC area mobility needs.
Calling it an important victory, Secretary of Transportation Rodney Slater said the case should clear the way for construction of the new bridge to begin in 2000.
The DC court also reversed a lower court ruling that bridge proponents had not adequately reviewed possible project impacts on historical sites.
Bridge opponents may still contest the project in court. Total funding for the billion dollar-plus project has also not been finalized.