August 29th, 2006

FWOOSH!

I Wanted To Blow It Up!

Reuters Photo: The Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge in an undated photo.
Reuters Photo: The Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge in an undated photo.
ALEXANDRIA, Virginia (Reuters) – A long-suffering commuter fulfilled the dreams of generations of Washingtonians on Tuesday morning when he blew up a detested Potomac River bridge. Maryland electrician Dan Ruefly won a contest to detonate a section of the Woodrow Wilson Memorial Bridge, which carries the Capital Beltway across the Potomac between Maryland and Virginia just south of the District of Columbia. Regional authorities have been building a replacement since 2000. … The bridge has long been one of the worst traffic bottlenecks in a region notorious for gridlock. Eight lanes of Beltway traffic funnel down to six lanes, and backups can stretch for miles when the drawbridge is raised 270 times a year to let boats through. As the midpoint of Interstate 95, the East Coast's busiest highway, the bridge also handles a heavy flow of long-distance traffic. Seconds after Ruefly pushed down the ceremonial plunger at 12:34 a.m., a cascade of flashes lit the underside of the bridge and thunderclaps rolled across the river. The steel girders of the old span collapsed in a cloud of dust as spectators on a nearby overpass cheered. … Asked if he had thought about blowing up the bridge before, Ruefly said, "Hasn't everybody in Washington, D.C.?" The bridge was designed to handle 75,000 vehicles a day when it opened as a four-lane span in 1961, and the six traffic lanes of the current bridge now carry 200,000 vehicles per day. …
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