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Washington DC is my hometown, I grew up there, my family has called it and its Maryland suburbs home since shortly after the Civil War. (That branch immigrated on empty tobacco boats returning from Hamburg to the tobacco ports of the Chesapeake Bay.)
I first drove a car there about the time the Interstate Highway System was completed. There are a few other small bridges across the Potomac, some dating back to the Civil War, but for commuters -- and EVERYONE trying to get from the Northeast USA to the Southeast USA on Interstate 95, probably the busiest superhighway on Earth -- you have to navigate The Beltway (I-495) and aim for one of its only two bridges across the Potomac.
The Woodrow Wilson Bridge ... well, I don't even want to talk about it, I can feel my blood pressure rising already.
This is the Best Thing that ever happened to anyone who ever had to drive a car or a truck or a motorcycle around Washington DC. Or from Philadelphia to Richmond, or contrariwise.
Since 9/11, High Explosives have gotten nothing but Bad Press. Today's children are being taught to fear and hate High Explosives, and to believe (as President Bush would say) that High Explosives are Evil.
But big explosions and the wonderful things they do (sometimes) and the wonderful way they make you feel (sometimes) are part of every human being's heritage.
So to the people of Washington DC, this is just a Wonderful Day! And Dan Ruefly is just the Luckiest Man In the World! Congratulations, Dan! Mazel Tov! "O frabjous day! Callooh! Callay!" I want an autographed picture of The Man Who Blew Up The Woodrow Wilson Bridge!
Tuesday 29 August 2006
to blow up bridge
by Andy Sullivan
ALEXANDRIA, VIRGINIA USA -- A LONG-suffering commuter fulfilled the dreams of generations of Washingtonians this 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.
"It's past due. It was past due a couple of years after it was built," said Mr Ruefly, who crosses the bridge before 6am on weekdays to beat traffic on his two-hour commute.
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 Mr Ruefly pushed down the ceremonial plunger at 12:34 am, 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.
Mr Ruefly, of Accokeek, Maryland, has had to contend with the Wilson Bridge every working day for the past 30 years. His hip was crushed in an accident on the bridge in 1999.
Asked if he had thought about blowing up the bridge before, Mr Ruefly said, "Hasn't everybody in Washington, DC?"
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 present bridge now carry 200,000 vehicles per day.
The U$2,400,000,000 12-lane replacement will increase capacity to 300,000 vehicles a day. Thanks to its higher elevation, the new drawbridge will need to be raised only 65 times per year.
Traffic is already flowing on one span opened earlier this year. Work on the second span is expected to wrap up in 2008, with final work on nearby highway interchanges completed by 2011.
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