31st St. Bridge to Be Closed, Replaced

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The 31st Street Bridge over the C&O Canal in Georgetown. Courtesy DDOT.

A “Notice to Proceed” on a year-and-a-half-long project to replace the structurally deficient, weight-limited bridge over the C&O Canal on 31st Street in Georgetown was issued by the District Department of Transportation to the Fort Myer Construction Corporation on March 18. It’s the first step of many to restructure the busy one-way bridge over the historic and now partly refurbished canal.

Built in 1867, the bridge has a multi-column pier of cast iron, which will be removed, restored and reset, and masonry abutment walls.

“Lots of things now need to be done before the bridge is closed to through traffic, including the building of a temporary pedestrian bridge which will maintain foot-traffic access across the canal at all times,” Dawn Dekker, public outreach manager for engineering consultant Volkert, told The Georgetowner. “We will give ample, ample notice before any construction starts.”

All changes to traffic patterns will be announced in advance throughout the course of the project, according to DDOT. Plans now include closing off 31st Street from the bridge south to South Street and north to M Street. Only residential parking will be available on the rest of 31st Street during the closure period.

A detour plan for vehicular traffic during the bridge closure and the disruptive impact to businesses and residents were discussed at a public meeting on March 14 at Grace Episcopal Church.

“Residents wanted to get as much information as possible,” reported former Georgetown Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner Bill Starrels. “We know it will be disruptive to the many residents, restaurants, a newly renovated hotel and a parking garage. But it has to be done.” Starrels noted that the bridge “is the final vehicular bridge in Georgetown crossing the historic canal to be replaced.”

Besides installing a new bridge and resetting the supporting pier, the project will also provide lateral supports for the canal’s existing walls, new railings and ADA-compliant sidewalks and ramps.

Construction during the anticipated 530 days of the project is to take place between 7 a.m. and 7 p.m., Monday through Friday, and between 9 a.m. and 5 p.m. on Saturday (except for holidays). The expected date of completion is Aug. 28, 2020.

“The public can keep up with all the latest developments and post questions about the project through our website, which I manage,” said Dekker, who can be reached by phone at 703-307-4646.

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