Washington, D.C. commuters should brace themselves for major traffic changes to two of the busiest streets in the city.

Construction on the New York Avenue Bridge and the replacement of the 9th Street Bridge is scheduled to begin in the early portion of 2011. With the intent of improving safety and street quality, construction is expected to last on the 9th Street Bridge until next summer and officials have charted 2013 as the scheduled completion date for the New York Avenue project. Considering that structural work will undoubtedly slow traffic, the District Department of Transportation (DDOT) is urging drivers to use alternative routes and other commuting means. Additionally, DDOT will also provide a $50-per-month incentive to the first 2,000 New York Avenue commuters to use ride-sharing alternatives.

“We keenly recognize that New York Avenue is a main commuting artery and that improving these facilities will exert a major impact on the tens of thousands of people who use it daily,” says Ronaldo Nicholson, DDOT chief engineer. “That’s why we are making every effort to inform the public before construction-related congestion kicks in so they can make plans to avoid it. The centerpiece of our commitment to providing options to commuters is our New York Avenue Bridge Bucks program, which will debut before the heaviest impacts are felt by the traveling public.”

In 2009, DDOT confirmed five projects, totaling more than $100 million, which would be taking form close to the area of New York Avenue, NE. While motorists may have already noticed slower commute times on the 9th Street Bridge, which began construction initially on Dec. 13, the biggest change for drivers will occur next summer, when a half-mile stretch of New York Avenue will be reduced from six lanes to four lanes for a nearly two-year time frame while the New York Avenue Bridge is reconstructed. DDOT has announced that traffic delays near the area could potentially add 15 to 30 minutes of additional commute time.

Although the construction is likely to frustrate drivers, officials believe the end result will be a welcome change. “The reason why we’re undertaking this project is because there’s an aging bridge there that crosses the railroad tracks,” DDOT spokesman John Lisle says. “A lot of people may not even realize there is a bridge but it goes across a very busy track and it needs to be replaced. Hopefully it will be a short term impact on drivers but on the long run, everyone who uses New York Avenue and crosses that bridge will benefit.”

For more information on construction and ride-sharing alternatives, visit www.FixingNewYorkAve.com (currently in construction).

Stephen D. Riley

Special to the AFRO